John Fox: Bears LB Shea McClellin has a ‘bright future’
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It’s as though Shea McClellin is a rookie again. For the third time in four seasons, the Bears’ first-round pick in 2012 is learning a new position. Will he ever find success?
‘‘I think it’s just sticking to a position and not moving around all the time,’’ McClellin said.
To the surprise of many, Bears general manager Ryan Pace didn’t draft a linebacker last week, preferring to stick to his overall grades than reaching for a need. The Bears did add undrafted free agents Jonathan Anderson of TCU and John Timu of Washington, and both project as inside linebackers.
But barring any late additions or surprises, the competition for playing time at inside linebacker will feature McClellin, Jon Bostic, Christian Jones and free-agent signee Mason Foster. With Bostic dealing with a stiff back, McClellin and Foster led all the position drills during voluntary minicamp last week.
‘‘I’m just trying to get used to the calls, get used to the fits,’’ McClellin said. ‘‘It’s a different defense, a 3-4 now. I have to get used to that kind of thing, but it will be good.’’
The Bears didn’t pick up McClellin’s fifth-year option for 2016 — the $7.7 million price tag didn’t make sense for them — but coach John Fox continues to speak highly of him. Fox said McClellin eventually might move to outside linebacker, but he’ll focus on inside for the time being.
‘‘I thought highly of him when he came out of Boise State, [but] he was more of an outside linebacker in that scheme,’’ Fox said. ‘‘Right now, putting him inside, we’ll see how he does there, see how he progresses, because he is a good athlete. He does have good size, good length.
‘‘You know, we’ll see where he goes. It will be an easier switch to put him someplace [outside linebacker] where he is more familiar [later]. . . . I’m excited to watch him. I think he’s got a bright future, and we’ll see what he does with it.’’
For the first time in his career, McClellin is in a defensive scheme he was projected to be in.
‘‘I always thought that was my true position, a 3-4 out-backer,’’ he said.
McClellin, though, said he’s excited about playing inside in coordinator Vic Fangio’s scheme. McClellin’s versatility remains an asset, but his goal is to establish himself at one position. He underwent a major body transformation when he switched from end to linebacker last season.
‘‘I would like to settle into a position,’’ said McClellin, who started 10 games last season at strong-side linebacker. ‘‘It does get difficult just switching. It’s my third switch now.’’
McClellin also wants to stay with the Bears. But being in the final season of his rookie contract, he has to earn it.
‘‘If you want to be a linebacker, this is the place to be,’’ he said.