Last year, I ran a bit of a minor series about players (mostly recent draft picks) that I thought would have a better year than their rookie season for whatever varied and sundry reasons. Today, we're going to bring that back (with better formatting and better thoughts!) by talking about second-year defensive lineman Shea McClellin.
2012: 13 games, 7 tackles, 7 assists, 2.5 sacks
Not quite the rookie season one might expect out of a first round pick, but McClellin was a project player when he was brought in, whose skill set best lent him to getting after the quarterback. And pressure the quarterback he did. I saw some things in McClellin that needed work last year, but I think the Bears still have themselves a solid defensive end in the making.
One of those things is his lack of opportunity. McClellin was primarily a rotational guy last year, brought in in special packages like the Boise package (which had McClellin roaming the line of scrimmage like a rushing linebacker) and the Dan Ryan of bringing Julius Peppers inside and McClellin with Corey Wootton as the bookends to maximize the speed of the defensive line.
This year, with Isreal Idonije presumably booking a room somewhere except Chicago, McClellin moves to the third end and should be the first one in when Peppers needs a breather. This should get him more chances to develop against pass protectors and develop a counter move.
McClellin's also going to be a few pounds heavier without sacrificing any of his speed, which should help him make more plays in the run game.
The 2013 Season
McClellin will be closer to a finished product, but still not quite there - we probably won't see everything McClellin has to offer until year three. That's okay, but McClellin needs to have more production now, particularly sacks, to quiet his doubters to a dull roar. I think we'll see some growth from Shea. The question is, will it be enough?
Early 16-Game Prediction: 5.5 Sacks, 20 Tackles, 15 Assisted, with no move to linebacker.