INDIANAPOLIS -- Here at the NFL scouting combine, we learned that new Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman isn't a fan of providing offseason specifics about his plans for the roster. So when Trestman declined to say what position former first-round draft pick Shea McClellin will play in 2013, it was difficult to know if he was simply following policy or if McClellin might actually be moved from defensive end to linebacker or some mix in between.
On the surface, it wouldn't make much sense to use McClellin as an outside linebacker in the 4-3 we're assuming the Bears will play. He is a pass-rusher first and foremost, and the two premier pass-rushing positions in the NFL are as an end in the 4-3 and an outside linebacker in the 3-4.
The Bears are planning a 4-3 base defense under new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. So would the Bears really use McClellin as a linebacker in the 4-3, where his role would be to play over the tight end and rush the passer only in blitz situations?
I ran the idea past Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc., who was more open to the idea than me. Williamson noted how the Denver Broncos use Von Miller as a strong-side linebacker in their base 4-3 scheme and move him to defensive end in sub packages. Given that most NFL teams playing their base scheme on less than half of their snaps, a similar approach would give McClellin plenty of opportunities to rush the passer.
"Miller obviously is one of the truly elite defenders in the league," Williamson said, "but he too plays the strong side in their 4-3 and then lines up at DE in sub packages. Denver also is rather multiple and can switch things up pre-snap. Maybe the Bears take such an approach with McClellin? I can buy that."
This isn't to compare McClellin to Miller as much as it is note there are plenty of ways to use a player in an alternate position while limiting exposure to his presumed weaknesses. Like everyone, Williamson said he would have concerns if and when McClellin were asked to "turn and run" with tight ends such as the Green Bay Packers' Jermichael Finley and the Minnesota Vikings' Kyle Rudolph. It would be on Tucker to limit those possibilities and maximize McClellin's pass-rushing skills. It's worth an offseason conversation, if nothing else. Your thoughts?