Just two preseason games into the year and Chicago Bears fans are already on Shea McClellin again. Are their expectations too high so early in the season?
Marc Trestman pleased with his progress after shift from defensive end
First of all, one can understand the frustration of Bears fans. McClellin was supposed to become the next great defensive end for the team after going in the 1st round of the 2012 draft. He was the guy GM Phil Emery passed up Chandler Jones for. After two years of being clearly outmatched by bigger, stronger offensive linemen Shea implored his coaches to let him switch to his more natural position at linebacker. He got the green light and worked the entire off-season to prepare, dropping weight and increasing speed. By the time training camp was in full swing it was felt he’d done enough to earn the starting strong side job.
Yet through two preseason games he has made few impact plays, settling for just six tackles. That hasn’t discouraged head coach Marc Trestman though. He believes McClellin has made considerable progress from the start of training camp. His reaction time, confidence and instinct are all climbing up to match his already proven speed and athleticism. There is still work to be done but the game tape shows a player getting more comfortable with every snap.
In fact Pro Football Focus ranked Shea in the positives for the first time and Trestman had this to say:
‘‘I talked to [linebackers coach] Reggie [Herring] after the game a week ago, and [that] was his first time playing ‘Sam’ in a real game,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘It’s not Bourbonnais, and it’s not out here at Halas [Hall]. It’s a real football game, and you could see a little more confidence, a little more reactive and natural reactions to making plays [against the Jaguars]. ‘‘I thought he got better, and that’s a good sign. We’ve got two more weeks, and I’m hopeful that he’ll continue to make progress.”
McClellin and Jon Bostic remain the two fastest linebackers on roster
One thing fans don’t have much of in the modern NFL is patience. They are all about winning and excelling now. It’s very hard to accept that some players take longer than others to realize their full potential as a pro. McClellin isn’t the only linebacker on the roster under this sort of scrutiny. Second-year man Jon Bostic came in with all sorts of promise last season, featuring similar traits of speed and agility that can result in big plays when he’s in the correct position. A ferocious blow up of a running play on 3rd and 1 against Jacksonville illustrated that upside. McClellin has the same capacity. The Chicago Bears believe they have two physically gifted players in their linebacking corps now, but also two young ones. Physical ability can’t thrive in pro football until the mental side of the game slows down. That part is still in progress.
The ongoing calls for Shea McClellin to get cut are practice of free speech, but not in the best interests of the team. The 25-year old deserves a chance to reward the faith his team placed in him as a 1st round pick, but this time at a position he feels more comfortable.
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