By Adam Hoge-
LAKE FOREST (CBS) — When the Bears announced Shea McClellin was moving to linebacker this offseason, the natural reaction was to question whether he had the ability to make the switch.
But the reality is, he has played a lot more linebacker in his life than defensive end, and in many ways, he’s back home in his more natural position.
“I did it a lot in college and my whole career in high school,” McClellin said after the Bears’ first OTA practice Tuesday. “So the instincts are there and I’ve just to learn the concepts, the coaches and things like that.”
McClellin has spent most of the offseason transforming his body to play linebacker. His target weight is now 245-250 pounds, which is 10-15 pounds lighter than the weight (260) he was listed at last season. After two underwhelming seasons at defensive end, the hope is that the lighter weight will allow him to use his athleticism with more space around him.
“My first two years weren’t the greatest, but I think linebacker is a natural fit for me,” McClellin said. “I think it’s what I should be doing and I’m very excited about it.”
Tuesday was McClellin’s first chance to take reps at linebacker against a live offense, although players weren’t wearing pads and hitting wasn’t allowed.
“It’s good to have some guys out here to go against instead of just going against air,” he said. “Still got a lot to work on.”
That much was evident on one rep when he walked up to the line of scrimmage and then was beat in coverage by tight end Martellus Bennett. Otherwise, McClellin looked comfortable playing strong-side linebacker with the first-team defense and even handled the defensive calls when he moved to middle linebacker with the second-team unit.
With middle linebacker D.J. Williams absent from practice, second-year linebacker Jon Bostic took the middle linebacker reps with the first-team unit and stayed on the field with Lance Briggs in nickel situations.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.