Originally written on Midway Illustrated  |  Last updated 6/2/12

Certainly the NFL draft hangover has worn off and we're now moving into OTAs and getting into the preparation for training camp.  The start of veteran mini camp is just over two weeks now so the focus is turning towards the players who are around from the team last year.

Certainly we shouldn't lose focus on a few of the rookies, but I wanted to give my take on Shea McClellin and analyze some of the things on tape that I like and some of the things I don't like.

McClellin is not an easy prospect to analyze as a down 4-3 DE because he was utilized all over the field but I'll toss in some of the stuff I saw from  him that will even translate over to his working to be a starter at DE.

Strengths:

Let's start with some of the things we can pick up on tape that are McClellin's strengths.  Surprisingly the thing that jumps out at me the most on tape is McClellin's hand usage, specifically his ability to stack and shed blockers.  He seems to win the hand battle on each and every occasion and can go find the football after he's shed the blocker.  He usually gets his hands inside, and can pop a blocker back or extend his arms and win the leverage battle to make the play.  McClellin has very quick hands and they are strong as well.  This natural technique will be invaluable in the NFL and is probably one of the things that most stood out to the Bears to go with the often talked about relentless motor.

Here are some examples of McClellin's hand usage that make him a good prospect as a 4-3 base DE.

First highlight you can see easily disengages to curl inside:

Second highlight McClellin literally pops the blocker up and back with the speed and power of his punch.  This quick punch shows the power of McClellin's hands and how he uses them to win the leverage battle quickly and efficiently. 

Third highlight more of the same, he gets the pads inside the blocker sheds finds the football and goes and makes the play. 

Fourth highlight against Arizona State's offensive tackle disengages and finds the football. 

Fifth highlight more from the Bowl game against ASU pops the blocker up and drives him back. 

Those are five quick highlights showing McClellin's strong hand usage which is an invaluable tool at the NFL level.  Whether it's battling TEs or bigger RTs McClellin shows a solid all around ability to shed blocks and make plays.  The hand usage isn't a skill that's obvious as some of his other skills or a skill that is consistently noticed, especiall when compared to McClellin's relentless motor that has been touted as his best overall skill. 

 

Weaknesses:

Some of not so noticeable aspects of McClellin's game is the lack a pure explosion in his first step.  You don't see him beating OTs on a pure explosive first step where he puts the blocker at a disadvantage at the snap of the ball.  McClellin's ability is his skill to work hard and then his speed starts to pay off.  There are some times where yes he wins with a combination of explosion, speed, and closing ability but too often he may not beat the blocker off the ball. 

Some clips that show McClellin's lack of explosion in that he struggles to beat the OT to the point. 

 

This clip he gets a hard outside rush but doesn't beat the OT to the point but shows off his never quit attitude.  The following two plays in the sequence shows the same thing with McClellin's lack of explosion to beat the OT to the spot. 

Second highlight McClellin doesn't win the battle almost seems to hesitate at the snap of the football but makes a play on sheer guts. 

Third highlight he's not getting that snap off the edge that you'd like to consistently.  That snap off the edge that a lot of Bears fans saw from Nick Perry. 

 

Essentially in these highlights you're seeing some positives and negatives from McClellin that could make him a boom or bust prospect in the NFL.  He does have speed and a very workman like attitude, but in comparison to other pass rushers who have come out in recent memory he doesn't have that burst to go from zero to top speed in a couple of steps.  You can see some of the same flaws in receivers, receivers who have speed but don't gobble up a lot of ground forcing the hand of the DBs. 

When McClellin doesn't win with his explosion he can often be overwhelmed by an OT and put in a position where he can't win with his hands.  Part of the skill of winning with hands is having the blocker off balance, thereby using the hands to completely shed the blocker and have a path to the ball carrier. He does play with good speed but doesn't always play with a solid pad level.  This pad level problem comes primarily from running up right to get to top speed.  That explosive first step usually comes with a low pad level to gain the upper hand in the leverage battle.  Plus there is the habit when coming off the edge to rush from a standing position leaving his breast plate already exposed.  That upright tendancy has already been discussed at length with Marinelli in OTAs and rookie mini camp. 

Size isn't a problem speed isn't a problem and hand use isn't a problem.  McClellin may only be a situational rusher this year and then he may look to be a three down player in the future. 

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