By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) While the Bears didn’t reveal much Thursday at the NFL Combine, the team did expose some of their plans for last year’s first-round pick, defensive end Shea McClellin.
Both general manager Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman like McClellin’s versatility and while the defense doesn’t figure to change drastically, both are open to moving the second-year defensive weapon around.
“We’ve talked about that. I think he has flexibility,” Trestman said. “He is a tremendous athlete. As we put our football team together, we’ll work on that. We’ve had discussions about Shea and all his strengths and weaknesses and he’s got a lot of strengths and a lot of great things he can do. As (defensive coordinator Mel Tucker) and the guys continue to put the defense together, we’ll decide collectively what the best place for him to play is.”
Emery said he is open to giving McClellin reps at linebacker, but don’t expect a permanent position switch.
“Right now he’s a D-end. He’ll remain a D-end,” Emery said. “If there’s something in him that sparks us in terms of versatility, like he did last year, he stood up in certain situations. We’re not going to put an umbrella around him. We’re going to use his talents, his athleticism, his speed, his savvy to the best that we can. Whatever our coaches concoct as a plan for him, we’ll use every ounce of it.”
Those comments are significant not just for McClellin’s outlook, but also the defense has a whole. It points to a move towards multiple formations and the flexibility to move guys around within the defense. The Bears did some of that previously under Lovie Smith, primarily with Julius Peppers, who has the extreme versatility to move inside to tackle or even drop back into coverage. Bringing the linebackers to the line of scrimmage to create confusion was also a popular move.
But McClellin could give new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker the opportunity to experiment with hybrid looks, making the defensive appear as a 3-4 on some snaps with McClellin standing up or lining up a few yards away from the line of scrimmage.
“Where (McClellin’s) versatility is, I think that’s a plus for him, so if he ends up being a linebacker in some situations, good,” Emery said.
Just don’t expect him to take over Brian Urlacher in the middle.
For more Bears coverage, follow Adam on Twitter at @AdamHogeCBS.