Rookie first round draft pick Shea McClellin is quickly learning that he’s not in Boise any more. Life for an NFL rookie is hard while life for a Chicago Bears first round draft pick on a defense that features four returning Pro Bowlers is damn near impossible.
McClellin is facing the typical ups and downs of any rookie early in camp. There are good moments and there are very humbling moments. After a couple of days in pads, the second year rookie was hard on himself:
“My pass rushing wasn’t very good, so I was kind of disappointed,” he said. “I’m pretty hard on myself, so I’ve got to do better than that.”
For my money, I’m glad the kid is putting a little pressure on himself; it shows me he cares. Based on what I saw coming across Twitter during Sunday’s practice, McClellin had a few rough moments. In one sequence, undrafted free agent offensive lineman James Brown offered the rookie some all you can eat pancakes if you know what I mean. In another sequence, McClellin would have notched a sack of 4th quarterback Matt Blanchard. Too bad he beat a 5th string tight end to do it. This from ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson, following Saturday’s night first padded practice:
Without the benefit of watching the coaches film of the workout, McClellin looked as if he showed a good burst coming off the line of scrimmage during the majority of individual one-on-one passing rushing drills. However, he seemed to struggle on the occasions he found himself directly engaged with the offensive tackle. McClellin, who some project will be used as a situational pass-rusher early in his career, also appeared to have a few difficulties when participating in the more physical inside run drill.
Head coach Lovie Smith doesn’t sound too worried, but he wasn’t sugar coating the rookie’s performance either:
“He is going to earn his money based on what he does rushing the passer,” Smith said. “Got a long ways to go.”
The pressure that McClellin is feeling is self-inflicted. With Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije pretty well set as the starting defensive ends, McClellin can come in as a rookie and do what he does best – rush the passer. If he can do that successfully, he’ll earn playing time:
“The first thing is for a third end to show us they deserve reps and from there he will show us exactly how many he needs to get and in what situations,” Smith said. “Third ends, most of the time, guys want to come in and rush the passer. We hope we have that situation where we have another good pass rusher and we’re trying to figure out ways to get all of them reps.”
I know what a lot of you are thinking – another Chicago Bears first round bust. I’m not panicking yet because from what I’ve seen, Phil Emery has done a good job stocking the cupboard. I’m willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Let’s see what the kid does when the lights are on and he’s in a real game before we label him a bust.