The big story surrounding the Chicago Bears organization this offseason has been what they plan to do about revamping the defense after one of the worst defensive seasons in team history. Their first move to help improve on a putrid season included retaining defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. While this was a very scrutinized decision by the front office, what can you expect when many of your top players battle nagging injuries for the better part of half the season? They had to give Tucker the benefit of the doubt.
Now, much of the talk has been about if the team should refocus the defensive scheme from their base 4-3 set to a 3-4. This could very well help them long term, but it would leave a lot current Bear players in limbo as they aren’t suited to fit in the front seven in the 3-4.
The team announced today that Shea McClellin is going to be moving from his spot, opposite Julius Peppers, as a hand down pass rusher to a strong side linebacker. This now will put him in a training camp position battle with linebacker Jon Bostic who will be heading into his second season in the NFL.
While this may mean that the team has decided to go in a different direction with their line for the foreseeable future, this move isn’t as drastic as it may seem. When scouting McClellin coming out of Boise State, there was talk that he could very well transition into a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level.
Think about outside linebacker Paul Kruger of the Cleveland Browns. Coming into the NFL, he was projected as defensive end in a 4-3. The team that drafted him, the Baltimore Ravens, wanted him to bulk up so that he could be an end in the 3-4. Over time, they found out that his best position with them would be as an edge LB rusher. He thrived in that spot en route to a Super Bowl victory in 2013.
I don’t see McClellin as the same type of dynamic pass rusher, but moving him back to the second level could very well position the team to make the most of his skill-set. Additionally, this could be a signal that the Bears may be slowly working themselves into a 3-4 set. It may not happen this season. It may not happen at all, but it certainly wouldn’t shock me if that was the reason for this move.