Immediately following the selection of Boise State defensive end Shea McClellin in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Chicago Bears GM Phil Emery espoused the rookie's potential in all phases of the game.
"We are very excited about Shea in terms of his all-downs ability," Emery said. "This is an all-downs football player, including special teams. This is a four-down player. Our special teams coaches gave him a blue-level grade as a special teams player."
It's very rare to hear an NFL GM discuss the special teams potential of a first-round draft pick. Typically, first rounders are expected to develop into All Pro players on offense or defense. Late-round selections and undrafted rookies are expected to fill out special teams, where the chance of injury increases dramatically.
DE Shea McClellin
It would be completely unnecessary to risk McClellin's health on special teams. Yet McClellin followed up Emery statements by saying he plans on having a big role on special teams.
"I think I'm definitely going to be on special teams here. I think they believe I can do that and I know I can do that," said McClellin. "At Boise State I played on punt return and kickoff return. I did kickoff in practice. I expect to have a big impact on special teams."
At rookie minicamp this weekend, McClellin showed very well in positional drills for the defensive linemen. He stood out amongst his fellow rookies due to his explosiveness off the line, his quick feet and the overall speed of his game.
It's far too early to make predictions but from what I saw of him on the practice field, he should be able to get pressure off the edge. His run-stopping ability still remains a question mark but at the very least, he'll be able to contribute on passing downs.
If he turns into the player the Bears believe he can be, he'll be able to forego any duties on special teams, coordinator Dave Toub said.
"Until he gets into depth, until he's either a first or second guy [on defense], either a one or a two [defensive end], we're going to work him on special teams as much as we can. We don't anticipate him being that guy. We think he's going to move up and be where we think he's going to be."
On the first day of minicamp, McClellin served on the punt team during practice. Yet during the special teams practices on Saturday and Sunday, McClellin was taken aside and given individual attention by defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
As such, it doesn't appear the Bears have any plans to use him on special teams. Which makes one wonder why Emery even brought it up in the first place.
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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.