The Chicago Bears, like most NFL teams, are not willing to elevate a rookie on the depth chart just because he might be a high draft pick. All five of the team's 2012 selections are being forced to earn playing time during training camp. That includes first-round defensive end Shea McClellin.
Throughout OTAs and veteran minicamp, McClellin took the majority of his reps with the third team. Occasionally he would hop in with the second team but for the most part, his time on the field was spent with the backups to the backups.
Yesterday evening, Bears players got their first chance of the offseason to practice with pads on. As such, we were able to get a good look at the offensive and defensive linemen. The coaches conducted 1-on-1 drills between the two groups, which was revealing on many levels.
Both offensive tackles J'Marcus Webb and Chris Williams looked good. Tackle Gabe Carimi was solid on the right side and backup guard Chilo Rachal stood out as well. On the defensive side of the ball, DT John McCargo showed very well, as did DT Nate Collins and DE Thaddeus Gibson.
DE Shea McClellin
Bradley Leeb/US Presswire
Yet the player that truly stood out was McClellin. He demonstrated outstanding burst off the ball, active hands and the ability to quickly get around the corner.
As such, when the team engaged in 11-on-11s, it was no surprise to see McClellin working with the second team. He initially replaced Corey Wootton on the left side, then rotated to the right side in place of Chauncey Davis.
In just three practices, and only one with pads, McClellin was able to work his way up the depth chart.
"I want to show my speed and I think I did that," McClellin said after practice. "This is just starting point and I just need to get better every day."
He said that coordinator Rod Marinelli's main message to him is to be fast off the ball and to use his speed to be disruptive in the backfield.
"Just get off the ball. Fast, speed," said McCellin. "It was very physical but I enjoyed it. It's just a starting point."
McClellin is wise beyond his years and fully understands that nothing is going to be handed to him, despite being a first rounder. Yet, considering his performance with the pads on, it appears the team will have no choice but to continue giving him increased reps.
"He's got the ability to be a really good rusher," Marinelli said. "The more guys that you have that can win a single [matchup] in the pass, that helps everybody. It just helps every guy. Every guy up front has to be able to pass rush, that's our thing."
McClellin, as expected, struggled against the run and was completely washed out on a couple of plays run right at him. Yet his pass-rush ability is too good to overlook, thus him quickly climbing the depth chart. It won't be surprising if he soon starts getting looks with the first team. For now though, the levelheaded country boy is just looking to improve each and every practice.
"It's everyone's opportunity. When we get pads on, the coaches want to see how physical and what we can do when we're tired," said McClellin. "Now I'm used to it and I know what to expect."
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.