Back in May we asked you, the Windy City Gridiron reader, Where will Shea McClellin start the 2014 season? The choices were starting at the strong side outside linebacker position, starting at middle linebacker or starting on the bench.
57% of you thought he would begin the season starting at strong side linebacker (Sam) while 27% of you pegged him for the bench. Do you still feel the same way after two preseason games?
McClellin struggled mightily against the Philadelphia Eagles' fast break offense in the opener. He played the Sam in their base 4-3 defense and he played a lot of nickel linebacker too. He logged 29 snaps that game, 2nd most of all Chicago's defensive starters to rookie Kyle Fuller's 35 snaps.
McClellin needs as many snaps as possible to aid in his transition from defensive end to linebacker. In that game he looked lost at times, he took some bad angles and he definitely looked like a player that was changing positions.
I thought he made a good jump in play from that game to game number two against the Jacksonville Jaguars, although the callers into local sports radio, the buzz around the water cooler and the word on social media was all still mostly negative on his play.
Did you see any improvement from McClellin against the Jags?
We've peeked in at Pro Football Focus and their unique grading from time to time, so I was curious on how they graded his preseason so far.
Here's their assessment from their week 1 ReFocused article.
Bears linebackers Shea McClellin (-2.7) and Jon Bostic (-3.1) had a tough time in pass coverage, consistently struggling to get to an appropriate depth on deep crossing routes.
Yeah, it was brutal not only for McClellin, but also his teammate Bostic.
I thought Bostic played much better against the Jags as well, but we'll take a peek at PFF's ReFocused preseason week 2 article to see how they graded it. I'll also include their thoughts on Bostic, as his play has been a question mark this year too.
Bostic and McClellin Make Strides
The linebacker corps was a disaster for the Bears last season and they got off to a poor start against the Eagles last weekend. A few days on, though, and things will look a little brighter. New convert Shea McClellin put in a much improved display in run defense capitalizing both on unblocked situations as well as disrupting and defeating blocks to allow others to make plays around him. He still looks a little uncomfortable in coverage, but as a fresh convert from the defensive line, that should hardly be a surprise.
Last year's second-round pick, Jon Bostic, had about as polar opposite a performance from the preseason opener as you could manage. After struggling in both run and pass defense at the weekend, Bostic made positive plays in both phases last night (39 snaps, +3.1 overall). Notching a pass defense on the goal line with the starters, he also beat Luke Joeckel on a pull block for a tackle for loss and a third-down stop earlier in the first quarter.
Bostic had a very rough rookie season, but he's not as widely criticized because he's always played linebacker. We can assume he'll eventually "get it", whereas with McClellin, it's still an unknown.
PFF had McClellin with a +1.8 overall grade against the Jags on 29 snaps including a +3.3 against the run. To put that overall grade into perspective, among every game that PFF has graded for McClellin's entire career, that +1.8 is his 2nd highest total ever. That includes 14 regular season games in 2012, 3 preseason games and 14 regular season games in 2013, and the two preseason games this year. The only higher grade they gave him was a +3.1 last preseason against the Chargers.
So to put as nice a spin on this as possible, in two games at linebacker he graded one in the green (positive) and one in the red (negative). In 31 games as a defensive end he tallied 3 green, 16 red, and 12 neutral.
We should learn a bit more about his evolution tomorrow night against the Seahawks.
Do you see light at the end of the linebacker tunnel for Shea? Or do you think he's wasting a roster spot?