The Bears have announced that they are moving former 1st round pick Shea McClellin to strong-side OLB from the DE position he has played the last two years. McClellin showed occasional flashes off being a decent pass rusher, like his 3 sack game in week 8 on Monday night against the Packers. One of his three sacks put Aaron Rodgers out for most of the season, but not quite long enough for the Bears sake.
That game gave McClellin 4 sacks at the halfway point of the season and if he would have just matched his first half production it would have been considered a pretty decent season with 8 sacks. Unfortunately, all McClellin could muster the rest of the year was a half-sack. When you consider that he played over 75% of the defensive snaps in the 2nd half of the season, that is unacceptable production. If you throw in the fact that was awful against the run (-19.2 grade in run defense from PFF), McClellin hurt the Bears more than helped them in 2013. According to Pro Football Focus, McClellin was the 2nd worst DE in the league (-28.4).
It’s probably too soon to give up completely on a guy who was the 19th overall pick just two years ago, but props to the Bears for realizing that McClellin isn’t an NFL defensive end. His move to OLB will put him the position he played in college at Boise St, where he was very productive with 33 TFLs and 20.5 sacks.
I’m skeptical that the switch to OLB will rejuvenate McClellin’s NFL career, but he can’t be any worse than he was at DE. In a similar move, the Seahawks moved former 1st round pick Bruce Irvin to strong side-side OLB this season even though he was productive at DE as a rookie (8 sacks). Irvin’s production dipped at OLB (2 sacks, 40 tackles in 12 games) but he is starting for the #1 defense in the NFL, so he must be doing something right. In an interesting wrinkle, Irvin was reportedly Lovie Smith’s 1st choice in the 2011 draft, but the Seahawks surprised many picking him at 15 just four spots before the Bears picked McClellin. Irvin (6’3, 248) has a similar build and skill set as McClellin (6’3, 260) but is a little more explosive in my opinion. We’ll see I guess…