- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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Former Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher realizes he isn't a scout or a general manager, and he prefaces his thoughts on DE Shea McClellin with that disclaimer. Still, the future Hall of Famer thinks McClellin might be better-suited for a move to linebacker.
Urlacher said during “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on Monday that McClellin, a 2012 first-round pick, might be miscast in Chicago’s 4-3 defense.
“It’s looking like it more and more right now,” said Urlacher, an analyst on Fox Sports 1. “He’s definitely a good athlete. He gets off the football. He can run. He can hit, and all that good stuff. But I see him maybe as a Sam linebacker, a 3-4 outside guy the more I watch him play. The more you watch him play, he’s built for the outside linebacker position, I think.”
Urlacher apparently isn’t the only one to subscribe to that line of thinking regarding McClellin.
Thrust into the starting role full time opposite Julius Peppers because the team moved Corey Wootton inside to tackle, McClellin has underwhelmed thus far. McClellin collected half a sack in the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, but hasn’t contributed a sack since or tallied more than three tackles in any game.
Still, Bears general manager Phil Emery remains committed to keeping McClellin at defensive end.
“I’ve seen improvement in Shea, particularly in his strength against the run. The primary thing to remember about our defense, as opposed to how some others are structured, is we’re a one-gap fit defense,” Emery explained. “Generally our ends are C-gap players. In our defense, the most important thing is gap discipline, is doing your job first. I’ve seen drastic differences between him from a year ago in being able to maintain that leverage on that gap, to be able to drop his hips, extend his arms and hold his ground so that the ball is turned into another gap. So in terms of playing team defense, Shea is doing a great job at that.”
Perhaps he’d do better, however, at linebacker. That’s what Urlacher thinks. And while McClellin possesses the athleticism for a move to middle linebacker, he’s better suited to play on the outside, Urlacher said. Besides that, the Bears drafted the future in the middle with second-round pick Jonathan Bostic, who will make his second start on Nov. 4 at Green Bay.
“I think he’s athletic enough to [move to the middle], no doubt. The kid, if you look at all of his testing at the combine, all that good stuff the scouts like to look at, he’s got all the measureable [attributes],” Urlacher said. “But I don’t know if he could make that move. I think it would be hard to take your hand off the ground and be in a linebacker stance in the middle or inside. I haven’t seen too many guys do that. Athletically, there’s no doubt in my mind he could do it. I just don’t know that that would be the best move for him.”