Shea McClellin Is Gaining Weight and Versatility

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reports some good news on defensive end Shea McClellin as he writes about how crucial it is for last years draft class to step it up this year:

“The team can get a big boost on both sides of the ball if defensive end Shea McClellin and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery are prepared for bigger roles in their second seasons. McClellin has bulked up some as he has been able to train for football rather than predraft tests such as the 40-yard dash, bench press and agility drills.”

“McClellin was mostly a situational pass rusher who played 34.7 percent of the time in 2012 with 21/2 sacks.”

“McClellin said he has added 5 to 7 pounds and is about 258, meaning he was playing below his listed weight of 260 last season.

“‘I need to take a big step,’ McClellin said. ‘That is what I am planning on doing. … Still trying to get quicker and faster. Working on hands, everything in pass rush.'”

Adam L. Jahns puts it even more bluntly:

“Is he a three-down player?

“‘He’ll get what he earns,’ [defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said.”

Let’s hope he earns a lot of playing time because, despite the perception that there’s depth at the position, they may need a lot more from McClellin than anyone thinks.  Corey Wooton had a good year for the Bears last year but I’m still not sold on him as a starter.  The Bears are still trying to sign Israel Idonije.

McClellin played really small last year.  He’s quick but he was far too easy to push around, especially against the run, to be a regular starter.  Physically he looked like a boy amongst men.  If he gains a more weight and upper body strength this offseason without losing a lot of quickness, he’ll be much more valuable.

I’m sure general manager Phil Emery was counting on that when he drafted him as it was apparent that both Jeffery and McClellin were projects that were likely to take a year to bloom.  That might be something to bear in mind as we approach the draft this year.  Emery looks like he might be a lot more likely to take a player he thinks can develop rather than one who he is counting on helping much this year.

’30 For 30′ Documentary To Explore Historical Significance Of ’30 For 30′ Documentaries

ESPN has announced this long overdue tribute to serious journalism in America.  Via The Onion:

“ESPN executives announced Saturday that the next installment in the network’s critically acclaimed 30 For 30 documentary film series will examine the historical impact of the ESPN documentary series 30 For 30. ‘Four years ago, a group of filmmakers began an ambitious, unprecedented project,’ read the press release for the episode, which is titled The ‘30 For 30’ Era and is set to premiere this fall. ‘They could tell what they were doing was special—they were telling sports stories like no one had before—but not even the series’ creators knew what a revered cultural touchstone 30 For 30 would soon become.’”

They’ve come a long way from being that network that provided the lighted-hearted entertainment that was so far beneath them.  Cheers to them.

Mini-camp Won’t Tell Us That Much

Matt Bowen at the Chicago Tribune runs through things he wants to see about Marc Trestman’s new offensive and defensive schemes and personnel during this week’s minicamp.  Amongst the things he’s curious about are how Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer will use new tight end Martellus Bennet.

“With Bennett, and second-year pro Evan Rodriguez, the Bears can bring their Ace personnel (two receivers, two tight ends, one back) on the field to create matchups versus base defensive fronts and try to exploit the second level of the defense. There will be opportunities here for [quarterback JayCutler to use the tight end to beat up the middle of the field.”

Only if they can run the ball with that personnel.  If both Bennett and Rodriguez can block well enough to force an opponent to use a base scheme against that personnel, they’ll be able to do something.  But as of now if I’m a defensive coordinator, the Bears will rarely see a full compliment of linebackers against that personnel.  Certainly not in anything that looks even close to a passing situation.

The problem is that you won’t really be able to evaluate that in a mini camp.  The Bears won’t really know what they have until the players get out of shorts and start hitting people.

An “Eerie Feeling” in NFL Market

I thought this comment from the Friday Buzz feature at The National Football Post was interesting:

There is an uncomfortable and eerie feeling in the agent community. More players than ever have been ask to take pay cuts and the amount of unsigned quality players still on the street has agents feeling uneasy. From one veteran agent: “I’m not sure if this is just an anomaly in the market place because of a flat cap this year, or if there is some informal collusion going on amongst owners, or if this is a trend that’s here to stay. If so, it looks like the back end of the second deal is just window dressing and the chance for a third deal is dead.” We won’t really know until next year.

First, I despise the word “collusion” when it comes out of an agent’s mouth only marginally less than I do when it comes out of the mouth of a representative of the player’s union.  The NFL doesn’t need any more lawsuits, particularly from the union.

Having said that, I really doubt that its justified.  Teams are spending to the cap.  In fact, to some extent they’re obligated to spend to the cap.  As long as they’re doing that, I can’t see how there can be a complaint.  If they’re spending less cash up front its almost certainly because the cap won’t be increasing to accommodate the back end of those contracts like it used to.  At least not for the next year or two.

My message to the players is “welcome to the real world”.  Finances are tight all over and, to a certain degree, the NFL is probably feeling it.  Your cap might be flat for the next couple years but be grateful you aren’t dependent upon government funding right now.

Brian Urlacher is really going to wish he’d taken that $2 million from the Bears.  Its not that I’m unsympathetic to the players’ situation.  But looking back on it, no one should be surprised.

Mock Draft Round Up

Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times gives a list of players who mock drafts going to the Bears (without reference or links to whose drafts they are):

1. Alec Ogletree, LB, 6-2, 242, Georgia

2. Manti Te’o, LB, 6-1, 241, Notre Dame

3. Jonathan Cooper, G, 6-2, 311, North Carolina

4. Sylvester Williams, DT, 6-3, 313, North Carolina

5. Arthur Brown, LB, 6-0, 241, Kansas State

6. Chance Warmack, G, 6-2, 314, Alabama

7. Desmond Trufant, CB, 6-0, 190, Washington

8. Tyler Eifert, TE, 6-6, 250, Notre Dame

9. Tank Carradine, DE, 6-4, 265, Florida State

This promises to be a good draft for the Bears.  Some of these players, particularly Ogletree, Cooper and Warmack, are expected to go higher than 20.  The team can afford to sit back and take which ever steal falls to them.  A nice situation.

D Battery Elected To Philadelphia Sports Hall Of Fame

Philedelphia has elected a most worthy candidate into its Hall of Fame.  Via The Onion:

“A voting panel of journalists and prominent sports figures elected the D battery to the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame Sunday, honoring the alkaline storage cell’s many achievements in pelting players from visiting teams. “The D battery is as synonymous with Philadelphia sports as intoxicated fistfights, cheering for a severely injured player, or intentionally vomiting on a child,” said Philadelphia sportswriter Ray Didinger, adding that the Hall of Fame plans to install an interactive exhibit that allows children to throw batteries at life-size cutouts of rival athletes.”

Powerful choice.

Bears Plan at Guard May Depend Upon Center

Like myself, ESPN‘s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert is wondering what the Bears are going to do at left guard.  In doing so, he reminds us that the Bears are only adequate at best at the center position.  He makes a good point:

“[I]t’s worth noting, at least, that the Bears signed free agent center Taylor Boggs on Tuesday and [hosted] California guard/center Brian Schwenke on a visit Wednesday. The Bears don’t necessarily need to find a new center for 2013, but much like their short-term transition at middle linebacker from Brian Urlacher to D.J. Williams, it is time to construct a longer-term plan.

In this case, of course, the Bears have some flexibility. If they find in training camp that they have another starting-caliber center on the roster — be it Boggs, a draft pick or another free agent — [Roberto] Garza could conceivably move back to guard. The Bears signed free agent Matt Slauson presumably to replace the departed Lance Louis, but there is still one guard position without an obvious starter.

Garza is a much better left guard than he is a center.  Moving him there would kill two birds with one stone, improving the the center position and the guard position at the same time.

The more I think about it, the more I like it and the more I think this is exactly what the Bears may be planning to do.

Does Marc Trestman Know Personnel?

It was a good day at the Chicago Tribune for fan questions.  Dan Pompei answers another good one here:

It’s hard to think Coach Trestman could keep up with NFL personnel while coaching for years in Canada. Don’t you think he has to be at a disadvantage versus other NFL coaches knowing player abilities as we add people with offseason roster moves? It has to take months to evaluate the tape for just our current players, much less help the scouting department decide that someone like Matt Slauson is the guard to go out and get out of many available? Phil Elbert, Chicago

“I don’t think there is any question Trestman is at a disadvantage when it comes to personnel.  He does not know the league as well as the large majority of his head coaching peers…  The other point to be made here is Trestman is not in charge of personnel.  [General manager] Phil Emery is.  Trestman’s job is to tell Emery exactly what his systems need at each position.  Emery’s job is to find and acquire the players who fit.  So ultimately, I don’t think Trestman’s disadvantage will be a major factor.”

I don’t see this as a problem, at least in terms of off season moves.

Trestman’s ability to evaluate his own team most definitely is an issue.  He’s going to have to determine where the teams talent is and what the roster and the depth chart should look like coming out of training camp.  And he’s not going to know the Bears opponents quite as well when formulating game plans during the season.  But you could argue that even this will actually be an advantage in a sense.  He won’t have any previous biases.  Perhaps he’ll be more likely to rely on what he sees.

Bottom line, most of us believe that former head coach Lovie Smith had too much say in the way the Bears handled personnel while he was here.  That’s unlikely to be a problem with Trestman in part because of exactly this issue.  Leaving the acquisition of talent up to Emery while Trestman concentrates more on coaching it could become a major strength rather than a weakness.