Chicago Bears defensive end Shea McClellin has made a big impact through the first three weeks of his rookie season. The youngster out of Boise State has 1.5 sacks so far, which is second most amongst rookie defensive ends selected in the first two rounds of the 2012 draft.
His presence on the field, and his ability to get after opposing pass rushers, has provided Chicago defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli flexibility in both formations and play calling. His versatility, as well as improved play along the entire defensive front, has resulted in the Bears leading the league in total sacks (14.0).
Bear Report talks with McClellin about the upcoming matchup with the Dallas Cowboys, the potential ending of the referee lockout and more.
"I'm definitely looking forward to the upcoming Monday night game. There's something very exciting about playing under the lights in a new stadium. The bonus is that all your friends and family are watching. It does put pressure to perform to a certain extent but that isn't a bad thing at all.
DE Shea McClellin
"Last time we had a nationally televised game, which was only about 10 days ago, things didn't go our way. Our aim this time is to turn things around and get it done for Chicago.
"[Tony] Romo and company are a formidable group. He has some excellent running backs and skilled receivers. They play an up-tempo game that will require a lot of aggression and speed from our defensive line. Some teams like Seattle have gotten in their faces a little bit but they still have a really good offense overall.
"As always, I see the pass rush as key. You pressure the quarterback and sooner or later he'll be making some bad decisions. And of course we'll be wanting to keep his mind on sacks. Anytime a quarterback gets uneasy about going down, he's easier to defend.
"Dallas should be comfortable being in their home stadium and playing at night. I believe its something like their 74th Monday Night Football appearance. It's an indoor environment with artificial turf so that will require an adjustment on our part. That's not difficult to do. Once the ball is snapped you are so busy concentrating on what you need to be doing, you tend to forget what kind of turf you are standing on.
"National games are viewed by all players in the NFL as an opportunity to showcase skills. It's a time when players from other teams are checking your work and you definitely want to look good. There's extra intensity on both sides of the ball.
"I see this game as a good test for our defense. We had a strong showing last weekend against the Rams and hopefully that trend will continue."
Has the Chicago defense been carrying the offense?
"Not at all. There's a strong group on that side of the ball. Some of the players are a little bit banged up right now but there is excellent depth at all positions. I'd expect them to have a very strong showing on Monday.
"Honestly I'm so busy as a rookie just trying to learn my job and perform well that I haven't paid much attention to [the referee lockout]. When I've been on the field I haven't noticed anything in particular in terms of calls, but remember, I haven't been on the field with the regular refs yet. Maybe there is a difference but I certainly wouldn't know. I play football. I don't weigh in on labor disputes.
"What I've heard from my teammates has been mostly relief that the lockout seems to be drawing to a close. For most of us, hearing about it is just another distraction out there.
"My goal right now is to get better every day. Piece by piece I feel things slowly coming together. I'm working, refining the little things and I think I've made some progress there. I plan to just continue to grind away until I have it right."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.