Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman and GM Phil Emery took to the podium at the NFL combine today to talk about the state of the franchise. First up to talk today was Trestman who spoke about Urlacher and the progress of player and roster evaluation of the Bears.
The most intriguing quote that came from Trestman was in regards to current defensive end Shea McClellin and where he fits into the Bears defense.
''We've talked about that,'' Trestman said, ''He has flexibility. He's a tremendous athlete.
''As we put our football team together, we'll work on that. We've had discussions about Shea and all the strengths and his weaknesses. And he's got a lot of strengths and a lot of great things he can do. As Mel and the guys continue to put the defense together, we'll decide collectively what the best place for him to play is.''
What Trestman may be alluding to is a slight tweak to the way the Bears play defense in Mel Tucker's system that is different than Lovie Smith's. McClellin could play the SAM 'backer spot and play it well in a blitzing attacking and as a player in the 4-3 run defensive role.
Shea McClellin can be a 4-3 linebacker as the SAM because the run fit for the SAM is very similar to the run fit for a defensive end. The role of the SAM is take on the blocker and turn things back inside to the middle linebacker or the WILL who serves as the back side defender. What so often happens is the MIKE and WILL end up making the most tackles because the SAM is forcing the action back to them.
This means there is less pressure on the SAM to make plays, which would be ideal for McClellin. Addidtionally the Bears could also take advantage of his pass rushing skills to disguise different blitz packages between McClellin and the DE.
This type of scenario would also be beneficial to the defense as a whole because Nick Roach is a far better prospect to take over at the MIKE than McClellin is. Roach knows the defense better, knows the terminology better and has the experience playing the MIKE.
Many rookies start out playing the SAM spot because it gives them the best chance to learn the defense and their role in the NFL. This is why it's not out of the realm of possibility to see McClellin shifted to the strong-side spot.
However to adamantly destroy any thought of moving Shea to the middle linebacker spot, is still ludicrous. McCellin doesn't have the lateral movement or athleticism sideline to sideline to play th MIKE spot. He is not that type of open field tackler nor point of attack run stopper. I also don't expect him to grow into that type of role based on his skill set.
That being said there are reasons to believe that moving Shea McClellin to the SAM backer spot would in fact help the Bears in the likely event Urlacher does not return. This action would put less pressure on the Bears to immediately replace Urlacher by grabbing a middle linebacker at the 20th spot in the first round.
With the needs the Bears have on offense with needing to add more weapons and needing to rebuild the offensive line it would be far smarter to grab offensive value at 20. Taking away a major need without having to use a draft pick to fill that need is the best strategy the Bears can implement this off-season.