The Bears will not be going to a 4-3 defense. But they are not ruling out moving a defensive end to linebacker.
The former coaching staff was adamant that Shea McClellin was a defensive end. Period. Then-coordinator Rod Marinelli went to Boise State and worked out McClellin, as an end, and that’s where McClellin worked through the offseason, training camp and most of the season.
But before the 2012 season had played out, McClellin was sliding inside to a defensive-tackle slot, standing up in a two-point stance and even dropping onto zone pass coverage -– all things he did at Boise State.
He looked suspiciously like a linebacker, although nothing to suggest that he would ever become the successor in the middle.
Now the new staff of coordinator Mel Tucker is not slotting McClellin as an end and even GM Phil Emery, who drafted McClellin as a pass rusher, is holding open the prospect that McClellin in fact will move forward in his career as a linebacker.
“We’ve talked about that,” coach Marc Trestman said. “He has flexibility. He’s a tremendous athlete. As we put our football team together, we’ll work on that.
“We’ve had discussions about Shea and all the strengths and his weaknesses. And he’s got a lot of strengths and a lot of great things he can do. As Mel and the guys continue to put the defense together, we’ll decide collectively what the best place for him to play is.”
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Coincidentally perhaps, Emery said that the Bears hope to re-sign veteran defensive lineman Israel Idonije, whose primary position has been defensive end before last season.
With Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton under contract, and Idonije back, the Bears have depth sufficient to allow even greater use of McClellin as something other than a pass rusher.
McClellin, however, was credited with 14 quarterback pressures in 2012, behind only Henry Melton (24) and Peppers (21). More of his downs were passing situations than others on the defensive line, but he was able to generate impact plays in his varied roles.
“Right now he’s a d-end and he’ll remain a d-end,” Emery said. “If there’s something in him that sparks us in terms of he’s got versatility. Like he did last year, he stood up in certain situations.
“But we’re not going to put an umbrella around him. We’re going to use his talents, his athleticism, his speed, his savvy, to the best we can, and whatever our coaches can concoct as far as a plan for him, we’ll use every ounce of it…. So if he ends being a linebacker in some situations, then good.”