With Brian Urlacher on the shelf with a bad hamstring, the 'Move McClellin to the middle' camp is starting to get vocal again. Repeat after me: Shea McClellin is not an NFL middle linebacker.
Shea McClellin is not a middle linebacker. Shea McClellin is not a middle linebacker. Shea McClellin is not a middle linebacker. Shea. McClellin. Is. Not. A. Middle. Linebacker...
I suppose it's wishful thinking to assume you've all been brain washed into believing that Shea McClellin is not a middle linebacker? No. There are still some that believe that the Chicago Bears rookie defensive end has the size, speed, and football intelligence to go from a DE/OLB at Boise State, to a full time DE in the NFL as a rookie, then in year two as a pro to make the switch to middle linebacker? Really...
With Brian Urlacher resting his hammy for the next 3-4 weeks, and his football mortality actually in question, the 'move McClellin to the middle' chatter is starting up again. And it really annoys me. I remember when the Score-Heads called WSCR with the brainstorm of switching 282 pound Bears defensive tackle Chris Zorich to middle linebacker.
I guess his occasional zone drops or his spying of the QB has some of you believing he can easily make the move to the Mike. There's a big difference in occasionally dropping back to cover a hook zone and in quarterbacking the entire defense. Just because McClellin has the lateral quickness to move back and spy a scrambling quarterback, don't assume he can laterally work his way through the 'wash' and fight over, around, and through players to make a play on a runner.
I get it. Brian Urlacher (6'4" 258) is nearing the end, and the similarly built Shea McClellin (6'3" 260) could easily slide into that role. They may "look" alike, and they may have both ran comparable 40 yard dashes, 4.59 for 'Lach and 4.62 for Shea, but Shea McClellin is not a middle linebacker.
I talked with SBNation's Boise State site, One Bronco Nation Under God, about Shea McClellin shortly after the Bears drafted him, and I asked the question that most Bears fans wanted to know; A lot has been made in Chicago about McClellin not being a true hand in the dirt defensive end. How often did he drop down from his linebacker position and rush the passer from a 3 or 4 point stance?
And what did they guys that watched every one of McClellin's games have to say about him;
His position with the Broncos was defensive end. He played probably 70 percent of his snaps in that position. Boise State would occasionally move to a 3-3-5 or 3-4 defensive look in which case McClellin would stand up, but otherwise, he was a standard DE with the skills of an LB.
So many professional scouts started projecting him as a 3-4 outside linebacker, an edge rushing OLB, so a lot of fans began to see him that way as well. One Bronco Nation Under God continues about McClellin;
I think a lot of Boise State fans had tempered expectations of him in the pros because they never pictured him as anything other than an end. But realizing how he would fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker or an edge rusher at the next level made a lot of sense. He just doesn't fit the traditional defensive end mold.
I agree, his unique skill set didn't scream out 'traditional DE', but in today's NFL his size isn't an issue. It's a passing league, and teams want to rush the passer. Whether as a 4-3 defensive end or a 3-4 rush-backer, it was clear to scouts that his future in the pros would be as an edge rusher. Not a middle linebacker.
But, but, but, the Bears had success switching Brian from a free safety to a MLB, so why can't they turn McClellin into a middle backer!?!?
Brian Urlacher was on an entirely different level athletically coming out of New Mexico than McClellin was coming out of college. Urlacher played safety, he was already used to playing in space, coming up to tackle, moving laterally, covering receivers, playing zone, and seeing a play develop from the middle of the field.
At Boise State McClellin was a pass rusher that was able to let his defensive coordinator move him around a bit to take advantage of his athleticism.
But Urlacher not only excelled as a roving style free safety, he returned some kicks and punts, and he played a little wide receiver too. It wasn't like linebacker was brand new to him, he played the position his first two years in college before moving to safety.
The heir apparent to Brian Urlacher may be his current back up Nick Roach, or he could be sitting in a college class room right now, but he certainly isn't playing defensive end for the 2012 Chicago Bears. Say it with me now, Shea McClellin is not a middle linebacker.