By Laurence Holmes-
(WSCR) In the first few days of padded practices, first-round draft pick Shea McClellin has had a hard time.
Whether going up against J’Marcus Webb, Chris Williams or rookie James Brown, he’s been stood up, pancaked and manhandled. Is it reason for concern? Maybe, but there’s still more to see in his evaluation.
While in camp, McClellin has shown NFL speed. It’s the biggest difference between him and the player that some observers have already starting comparing him to – 2007 draft bust Dan Bauzin. You can see he has burst. The problem arises when linemen get their hands on him. McClellin hasn’t been able to disengage.
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is regarded around the league as one of the best line coaches in the NFL. It’ll be up to him to help mold the raw talent of McCllelin into a pass-rushing force.
“The movement is there, “Marinelli said. “He’s got a great motor. He’s smart and he’s got really good speed. It’s always been a ‘show-me game.’ He’s gotta go show it.” Marinelli said.
While at Boise State, McClellin spent significant time in a stand-up position. Scouts I’ve talked to have been split on what system is best for him at the next level. Some have said he spent enough time as a down linemen to be effective as a 4-3 defensive end. Some have said his speed and size make him a perfect fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker. As long as Lovie Smith is coaching the Bears, I don’t see a transition to a 3-4 happening. So, if McClellin is going to have an impact, it’s going to have to be at end.
So, how does he do that?
His performance thus far in Bourbonnais has been disappointing, but practices are an incomplete way of telling his effectiveness as a rusher. Teams don’t usually scheme against themselves in a practice. McClellin getting beat one-on-one is troubling, but it’s not the complete picture. In a game, the Bears could pick the weaker end to use him against or use more stunts to take advantage of his speed. They could use him in certain situations to stack the deck for the best result.
That doesn’t take the rookie completely off the hook, though. There were questions about his strength coming out of Boise. As fast as he is, he still needs to win those single battles against tackles. When the team breaks down into individual work, he has had a rough time beating his offensive opponents. In team drills, he disappears and doesn’t have the impact that one may expect from a first-round pick.
McCllelin is listed at 260 pounds. You can be an effective pass rusher in the league at that size, like Dwight Freeney or Elvis Dumervil, but that means refining technique. Over the next few weeks, it’ll be interesting to see if he becomes a better hand-fighter at the point of attack. He has to master pad level and leverage and create counter-moves.
It’s a work in progress, but the preseason games will give us a better idea of what type of player he is. Some guys can flip the switch when the lights turn on. The guy who he’s competing for reps with, Isreal Idonije, thinks a lot of what McClellin is going through is just the usual growing pains of being a rookie end in the NFL.
“He’s here for a reason,” Idonije said. “He’s here because he has the gifts and abilities to be a great defensive end in the NFL. We all have hard days. Put it behind you and get ready for the next and it’s going to come together eventually.”
Getting the most of those gifts will be McClellin task in the near future, but for right now, he’s making the Bears tackles look dominant.
For more Bears training camp information, follow Laurence on twitter @laurencewholmes.