After Shea McClellin drove Aaron Rodgers into the turf on Monday night, a large portion of Bears fans likely yelled out, "finally!"
To say that McClellin has been viewed negatively in Chicago since his arrival in 2012 would be an understatement. When he was drafted 19th overall in that April's draft, many were skeptical of a guy who seemed better fit for a 3-4 defense than the Bears' 4-3/Tampa-2.
Despite what many scouting reports have said, the Bears have been very adamant that he is a 4-3 defensive end and General Manager Phil Emery went out of his way a few weeks ago to mention that McClellin leads the team in disruptions — a stat no one is really sure how Emery and his staff define.
Along with his sack of Rodgers (that eventually took him out of the game), he registered two more on Monday night and earned himself NFL Defensive Player of Week honors for the first time in his career.
So what did he do on Monday night that he hasn't been able to do throughout most of his career? Shed blocks.
On the sack that ended Rodgers' night, McClellin was forced up field by Packers’ right tackle Don Barclay, but once Rodgers made his way out of the pocket, McClellin was able to fight himself off of the block and work back toward Rodgers.
On his second sack of the night, he used a brilliant spin move to fight past Marshall Newhouse and got just enough of Seneca Wallace's jersey to force him to stumble to the ground. And on his final sack, McClellin again was able to shed a block by Newhouse and was able to get back to Wallace after he was forced to step up in the pocket.
While one could argue that the third sack was more a product of Wallace holding onto the ball too long, the first two sacks showed why Emery fell in love with him in the first place. He has a rare combination of size and speed and he was able to showcase that at times on Monday night.
He has struggled mightily against the run this season, posting a -11.1 grade against the run according to Pro Football Focus, as he has struggled to set the edge against opposing offenses, which all goes back to his inability to shed blocks.
Defenses are aware that he has struggled against the run and many have tailored their running game to go after him when he is in the ballgame. The Bears initially tried to counter that by playing Corey Wootton on earlier downs and allowing McClellin to play in passing situations, but due to injuries forcing Wootton inside to three-technique, McClellin has seen more snaps on earlier downs.
Monday night proved that in some instances, effort goes a long way, and it finally paid off for McClellin. He appeared to play a bit more inspired, maybe due to what he has heard from various news outlets and fans, or maybe something finally just clicked for him.
He now has film he can go back on and see himself getting results, and that may be the confidence boost he needs.
When asked after the game on Monday what his confidence has been like this season, he responded: "I'd say like a roller coaster. It has been up and down. But you just have to not worry about the past and move on to the next game."
While Monday night's performance won't make him a perennial Pro Bowler or an All-Pro, we got a chance to see what the top of that roller coaster ride is like with McClellin, and hopefully it doesn't make its way down for quite awhile.
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