Shea McClellin on tape

Bear Report emerges from the dark after hours in the film room studying Chicago's first-round pick, defensive end Shea McClellin. Here's what we were able to decipher from the game tape.

Since the Chicago Bears made former Boise State defensive end Shea McClellin the team's first-round pick in this year's draft, a debate has raged as to whether or not he's a good fit in Chicago.

McClellin does not fit the mold of a typical 4-3 DE. While Israel Idonije, Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton are all 6-6 or taller, McClellin stands just 6-3. His arms are shorter than 34 inches, another uncharacteristic trait for 4-3 edge rusher.

In college, he played a lot of linebacker in addition to his duties at defensive end. He shows good range and change-of-direction skills, and his 4.63 40-yard dash was second fastest amongst defensive linemen at the NFL Scouting Combine.


DE Shea McClellin
Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire

For all these reasons, many analysts, including myself, pegged McClellin a better fit for outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. As such, a case can be made that he was a reach for the Bears at 19th overall.

Yet there is a growing contingent that is voicing loudly McClellin's potential in Chicago's 4-3. They tout his all-day motor and ability to turn the corner as a speed rusher. The Bears need pass rush off the edge and many feel McClellin can provide that in spades.

To get a better grasp on him as a player, we turned off the lights and spent hours in the film room, breaking down McClellin's strengths and weaknesses in an effort to see how he might fare as a pro.

While there are plenty of highlight videos on the Web, those do not show the complete player. A lot of comments being made about McClellin's game film have come solely from highlight tapes, where you only see his positives and not the negatives.

To that end, we charted an entire game – Boise State vs. Virginia Tech – that McClellin played against a BCS school, to get a better grasp on his all-around game. During this contest, McClellin was on the field for 50 defensive snaps: 27 at right DE, 15 at left DE, three at right OLB, three at right OLB and two at MLB. He finished with six tackles and 2.5 sacks.

Positives

-Able to apply pressure from both sides of the field, adding further to his versatility.
-Never gives up on a play and got two of his sacks chasing down the quarterback from the back side.
-His quick feet allow him to react to plays and change direction quickly.
-Uses hands well to come off blocks.
-Fights hard against the run. Doesn't take plays off.
-Very effective on inside slants and stunts.
-Very good closing speed.
-Solid open field tackler.
-Doesn't over-pursue. Stays at home.
-Shows a number of pass-rush moves, including a speed rush, bull rush, punch-and-pull, rip rush and spin move.

Negatives

-Of his 2.5 sacks, 1.5 of them were coverage sacks and not due to his explosiveness.
-The only time he comes off the ball quickly is during obvious passing downs. Otherwise, he's hesitant.
-Lacks ideal strength. When he loses leverage, he's easily moved and was driven to the ground on multiple occasions.
-Loses contain on a number of plays. Too worried about getting upfield, thus sacrificing contain.
-Inconsistent at the point of attack. Can be stout at times but too often he's easily locked up.
-Not a powerful hitter. More of a drag tackler.

Notable

-Fourth snap: Sets up LT by sprinting off the edge before quickly cutting inside. Leaves both guard and tackle behind him. Picks up the sack.
-46-minute mark: VT runs right at him. He does not diagnose the play and gets caught inside. Fullback seals him and the run goes for 15 yards.
-51:42: Goal line. He lines up on the left edge. Play is run at him. He is easily blocked by the tight end and ends up with his back against the play. The running back scores a touchdown.
-1:02:00: End around. He misreads the play and gets caught inside. Yet he uses his quick change of direction and closing speed to make the tackle near the sideline.
-1:50:00: Speed rush. Blows right past the left tackle and gets good pressure.
-2:23:24: Run right at him. He holds his ground, sheds the block and makes a hit on the ball carrier. An outstanding run stop, except he slides off the ball carrier, allowing him to gain an extra five yards.

Analysis

This film is from 2010, McClellin's junior season. He made some strides his senior year but this film is a solid representation of his all-around game.

As a pass rusher, he has all the necessary skills to succeed in the NFL. When he puts his mind to it, he can really get off the ball and get upfield quickly. On many occasions, he blew past the offensive tackle just moments after the ball was snapped.

His change-of-direction ability is arguably his most impressive trait. He does a good job setting up blockers and getting them off balance, before quickly crossing their face. Coupled with his active hands and you have the makings of a potential double-digit sack man down the line.

Many have questioned his ability to set the edge against the run. While he does make some solid stops, he also puts up some very poor efforts. The goal-line play where he allows a touchdown fully justifies those worries. He'll need to be more consistent in that area if he's to be an every down player at the next level. Bulking up and adding strength will go a long way toward that goal.

McClellin has the potential to be a quality player in the NFL. He has all the physical tools to be dominant on passing downs. Yet nothing on this tape changed my mind about him being a reach at 19, where a more well-rounded player like Chandler Jones might have been a better fit.

What's most encouraging is that McClellin is a coachable, smart kid that learns quickly. All of the deficiencies he shows on film can be remedied by Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

He's not a finished product, which is what makes him a reach, but his versatility and potential as a pass rusher will make him a valuable piece of Chicago's defense for many years to come.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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