It’s not like you can blame them. This current crop of Bears fans is exactly seven months removed from a 10-year regime (which shall remain nameless) littered with both hot and cold first-round Draft selections.
We’re just scared . . . we’ve been abused.
But reason should still prevail. Jumping at the lingering shadows of failed Draft picks is simply counter-productive.
Friday’s Family Night practice event will be the sixth padded practice of Shea McClellin’s NFL career, and some are already willing to call the rookie a “bust.”
While I think the majority of us know it’s a bit extreme to call a player a bust before he’s played a single game, there’s still a large contingent of Bears fans who are at least concerned.
While McClellin has shown the speed and athleticism that forced Phil Emery’s hand on Draft Day, he’s also been taken to school by offensive tackle Chris Williams during practice. And Williams at least appears to have already lost his job.
McClellin has consistently struggled in pass rush drills throughout camp and hasn’t seemed capable of getting the better of any player on the roster; first-string, second-string, or otherwise.
For a guy drafted to fill a role as a situational pass rusher, it’s easy to understand why the fear exists.
The Bears spent the 19th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft on McClellin when many analysts had them taking DE Whitney Mercilus. By comparison, Mercilus was drafted with the 26th overall pick and is already turning heads in Texans’ camp.
Feels like a tough pill to swallow.
I’ll defend the nervous Bears fans to a degree by saying that first-round Draft selections are supposed to be year-one contributors; not projects. I’ll defend my own position by saying that we still don’t know whether or not McClellin will be either.
What it comes down to is that drawing grandiose conclusions from a few padded practices is irresponsible.
Most of what McClellin has been struggling with on the practice field right now appears to be mental. He could benefit from getting stronger, but his relentless speed and motor will serve him well as he grows.
“My head’s in all different directions because I’m getting advice from a lot of players and coaches,” McClellin said. “I’ve just got to focus and do what they’re teaching me and home in on those things.”
The Bears are, after all, asking McClellin to play partially out-of-position. Projected as an OLB in a 3-4, the coaches are lining McClellin up at alternating DE in their 4-3.
He’s shown his versatility in camp, and has made a few plays in the run game both at and behind the line of scrimmage and in space up field. He tracks the ball well, which is evident in 11-on-11s, and he has good hands.
He needs time to develop his moves as a pure pass rusher.
“I like his progress,” head coach Lovie Smith said. “When you’re a first-round draft pick coming in, there’s a lot of pressure on you to be all-pro right away. It takes time. But he has great quickness and speed. He works hard, good athletic ability. Nothing can stop him from being a really good football player.”
And that’s what he has looked like more than anything else so far: a good football player.
McClellin did seem to step-up his game during practice on Thursday, however. He picked off a Cutler pass at the line of scrimmage and was able to get to the quarterback when Lovie Smith ordered the players to go live during the final scrimmage.
The bottom line is that you’re allowed to be concerned. But let the kid play some football before you draw any long-term conclusions.
It wasn’t so long ago—well, maybe it was—that a certain rookie linebacker struggled to impress during his first offseason campaign and into the first few games of the regular season.
And yet, twelve years later, Brain Urlacher remains the face of the Chicago Bears franchise.
At some point it won’t be fair to ask fans to wait any longer on your first-round selection to produce. We’re just not there yet. Not by a mile.