Chicago Bears: Shea McClellin Might Be Reason for Switch to 3-4 Alignment

By Clyde A. Speller
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

For many years, the defense of the Chicago Bears have played the Cover-2. This all came about with the arrival of former head coach Lovie Smith in 2004. Even after the termination of Smith last year, the Bears decided to stay with the Cover-2 defensive scheme when they hired Marc Trestman as head coach and Mel Tucker as defensive coordinator.

This past 2013 campaign has by far been one of the worse seasons Chicago’s franchise has seen throughout their history from a defensive standpoint. Dating from last year to this year, in overall defense, the Bears dropped from fifth to 30th; their ranking in sacks plummeted from eighth to being tied for last in the NFL; all the while, their average rushing yards allowed per game went from 101.7 to 161.4 (the worst in team history).

There is a legitimate argument that Chicago’s decline on the defensive side of the ball could be due to the number of injuries to key players. However, I believe what can totally fix this problem is getting rid of the 4-3, Cover-2 scheme, and going with a 3-4 defensive alignment.

This actually might have been the direction the Bears intended to go when they hired Phil Emery as general manager. Prior to joining the Bears, Emery was the director of college scouting for the Kansas City Chiefs, where he had his eyes set on defensive end Shea McClellin. Even with his move to the Windy City, Emery still had McClellin in his cross hairs and took him off the board with the 19th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Coming out of Boise State, McClellin was predicted to go to a team as an outside pass rusher in a 3-4 scheme. However, Emery still drafted him knowing that then head coach Smith was still running the defense out of the 4-3.

In his first two seasons in the league, McClellin has tallied only 6.5 sacks. The 6-foot-3, 260-pounder is on pace to being labeled a bust. But the writing seems to be on the wall for a dramatic change on defense, and going to the 3-4 should be it.

The Bears’ organization has already cut ties with defensive line coach Mike Phair and linebackers coach Tim Tibesar. I wouldn’t be surprised if Emery brings in replacements that are familiar with the 3-4.

In the event that this change takes place, McClellin will have a chance to thrive as a pass rusher. Therefore, Chicago will have a much better chance of cashing in on investing a first-round pick on the 24-year old.

In addition to the possible change to the 3-4, the Bears could be more flexible along the defensive line with Henry Melton and Jeremiah Ratliff (assuming that both will be re-signed). Melton could potentially be moved to defensive end, giving the D-line a better rotation with an aging Julius Peppers. As for Ratliff (who played in the 3-4 with the Dallas Cowboys), this could be a chance to revert back to his Pro Bowl form. More importantly, this will make drafting a nose tackle a high priority in this upcoming draft (i.e. University of Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III).

All in all, switching to the 3-4 will put McClellin in position to become an impact player, which will vastly improve the Bears’ pass rush, overall defense and will give Chicago the balance needed to be a complete team.

Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller.

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