First-round bust? Shea McClellin proving he belongs at inside linebacker

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Shea McClellin’s play at inside linebacker is not a fluke.

McClellin returned from a three-game absence (sprained MCL) to pace the Chicago Bears with eight tackles (nine after coaches’ review) and one forced fumble/recovery in Sunday's 37-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams.

The 2012 first-round pick was a big reason why the defense tightened up after the Rams scored on the game’s opening drive. With McClellin back in the middle calling defensive signals, the Bears limited St. Louis’s rookie phenom Todd Gurley to only 45 yards rushing on 12 carries.

“We obviously missed him,” Bears head coach John Fox said. “His leadership, his communication skills, lots of guys leaned on him.”

McClellin admitted he sometimes wonders how life would have been different if he entered the league at inside linebacker instead of bouncing around from defensive end to strong-side linebacker.

“I think you always have those thoughts, and definitely with Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs here [early in my career]; I think that would have helped out at a young age,” McClellin said. “Just learning from those guys, I think would have helped out a lot. It is what it is and I’m going to do what the coaches tell me. So coming in, they wanted me to play defensive end, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to argue with them. It is what it is.

“I can’t really regret it because ... the coaches told me that they wanted me to play defensive end. So it wasn’t my choice. You know what I mean? I was trying to do the best that I could at that position.”

The Bears declined McClellin’s fifth-year contract option back in the offseason; an understandable decision since picking up McClellin’s fifth-year would have cost the club $7.715 million. It’s not difficult to envision McClellin returning next year for a more modest sum of money. As far as in-house players for the Bears to re-sign in 2016, McClellin is relatively high up on the list.