Joe Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Times had this piece of information that will not ease anyone’s mind about the possibility of Shea McClellin being an all around defensive end any time soon:
“There were a few times Saturday when first-round draft pick Shea McClellin looked the part of a defensive end. More often than not, though, he looked like a boy going against men.”
Cowley goes on to say that it wasn’t just the starting offensive tackles and that McClellin was having trouble against the third stringers.
This certainly doesn’t ease my own concern that McClellin is going to need a year in the weight room before he’s really effective. And certainly as it is teams are likely to try to run over McClellin whenever he’s out there. That may be why the Bears seem so intent on decreasing the public expectations of him.
Having said that, Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune was more encouraging on an appearance on The Score (AM 670) on Tuesday. He made the point that quickness off the ball is what the coaches look for and the rest you may be able to teach. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli all but confirmed this with his comments to ESPN’s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert:
“‘What I’ve seen already is real,’ Marinelli said. ‘He’s got exceptional speed. Boy, he’s fast. And he’s not just fast. It’s that initial quickness. It’s reaction and movement. Suddenness. If someone moves, he’s off and following him. Some guys are fast with no awareness, but he sees it happening.’”
Seifert puts the situation in perspective by describing the way the Bears are likely to use McClellin:
“Marinelli’s scheme should help minimize the times when McClellin is lined up directly over an offensive lineman, an instance that would make him vulnerable to a power block. Among other things, Marinelli typically positions ends on what he calls the ‘edge,’ essentially over the outside arm of a tackle, or else they line up over a tight end.”
So why aren’t they having him do this instead of going head to head with bigger tackles who can push him around? Because its early and coaches are testing the edges on the rookie players to see what they can do. Sure, they probably already have a good idea of what McClellin’s limits are going to be this year. But you don’t know until you throw him out there and let him try different things.
Despite some of the doom and gloom reports, there are too many factors to consider to make any judgements on McClellin. Cowley’s observation above, though astute, is probably of limited value at this point. Certainly there’s every reason to believe McClellin will fit well into the role which the Bears apparently have defined for him this year. We’ll just have to wait and see.