Shea McClellin returning to roots in new Bears 3-4 scheme


Shea McClellin returning to roots in new Bears 3-4 scheme

Shea McClellin is going back to high school and couldn’t be more pleased at this latest step in his NFL career.

McClellin, working under his third different defensive coordinator and position coach and at his third different position in three calendar years, is holding down one of the two inside-linebacker spots in the developing 3-4 defense of coach John Fox and coordinator Vic Fangio.

The organization, not surprisingly, did not pick up the $7.7-million fifth-year option in McClellin’s rookie contract. McClellin understood the decision, which made him one of only a handful of 2012 draftees eligible but whose options were not picked up (one of the others was Bruce Irvin, first on the Bears’ wish list but selected by Seattle at No. 15, four picks ahead of McClellin).

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That seeming no-confidence vote could not matter less to McClellin, who has rediscovered something in football within the move of him to yet another position.

“I like it,” McClellin said. “It’s like high-school days, what I played in high school.

“For me this is the most fun I’ve had in the past couple of years. It was rough. We weren’t doing well as a team and that can get you down. You gotta have fun. It’s hard enough as it is and it’s really hard to play well when you’re not having fun.”

“Fun” at inside linebacker will involve a different skill set than his time at defensive end required: “You’re taking on guards almost all the time. But I did that last year, too, so it’s not going to be that much of a change.”

If there is an oddity about McClellin’s situation it is that the incoming coaching staff has a higher opinion of McClellin than either of the previous two, including the one that drafted him.

Fangio raised some eyebrows when he named McClellin among the players which Fangio envisioned as building blocks for the new defense.

“I think he’s got a chance to be a good inside linebacker,” Fangio said last month. Fangio comes from San Francisco with a reputation for blunt talk, and has seen what good inside linebackers look like after working with NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis in the 49ers’ 3-4 scheme. “We’re going to give [McClellin] a full opportunity and full chance to learn the position so we can evaluate him and see if that’s a good spot for him.”

McClellin was force-fit into defensive end after his drafting in 2012 – former GM Phil Emery acknowledged that mistake, although exactly who pushed McClellin’s hand onto the ground is unclear, and now irrelevant – and the Lovie Smith/Rod Marinelli staff refused to look at McClellin at middle linebacker. The Marc Trestman/Mel Tucker group left McClellin at end initially, tried him at strongside linebacker last season, and considered him barely “sufficient,” according to one former staff member.

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Fox liked McClellin in the 2012 draft but did not have a first-round pick and selected defensive tackle Derek Wolfe with the 36th pick.

“I thought highly of him when he came out of Boise State,” Fox said. “He was more of an outside linebacker in that scheme.  But that’s a switch… . Right now [we are] putting him inside, we’ll see how he does there, see how he progresses because he is a good athlete. He does have good size, good length… . It will be an easier switch to put him someplace where he is more familiar.”

For McClellin, it is very much a place with which he is familiar: “I think it’s a good fit for me,” he said, “so I’m going to try to show what I can do.”

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

USA Today

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21. 

Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.

All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.

The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players. 

The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.

Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons. 

Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.

Despite his disappointing sophomore season,'s Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.

CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.

The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.

It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.

We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.