LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Shea McClellin's days as a 4-3 defensive end could be numbered.
Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery acknowledged Thursday the organization needs to find a better way to maximize McClellin's talents after the 2012 first-round pick (No. 19 overall) consistently struggled to stop the run and sack the quarterback over the past two seasons.
"When we needed a pass-rusher to step up, Shea contributed greatly in terms of our overall production," Emery explained. "No matter how we shake out the stats as far as the importance of the person on the field to our pass rush, Shea was No. 1. But he did not have enough impact plays. Sacks are king and Shea did not have enough of those.
"What we have to do with Shea is find ways to use the unique talents and skills of the players that we have. Putting him at defensive end, that's on me, not giving him the ultimate opportunity to succeed. He produced in a positive way but the overall impact of the last two seasons has not been at a high enough level."
Bears head coach Marc Trestman added: "We'll look hard at Shea doing other things besides being lined up at defensive end. If that means moving him to a linebacker position as we move forward, that will be under consideration as well. But there's no doubt as Phil and I watched the tape this week that he's capable of more, and we'll work toward that as we move forward. He's got it in him. It's our job as coaches, and it starts with me, to get him in a position to be more successful, and we feel confident we can get that done."
McClellin was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his career-high three-sack game against Green Bay on Nov. 4, when he knocked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers out of the game with a fractured collarbone in the first quarter.
But McClellin managed just one full sack in the other 15 games, and in his first two full NFL seasons, has sacked the quarterback only 6.5 times.
That is not the kind of production Emery envisioned when he drafted McClellin out of Boise State.
"Shea was brought in -- and I said this last spring when I was asked about what do I expect out of him in terms of how I want him to improve -- he was brought in to the Chicago Bears to be a rotational, complementary pass-rusher," Emery said. "The whole idea and thought behind Shea is the high end of the athleticism he has and his speed to handle the quarterbacks that we face and the mobility that they have. The role model was some of the players that Lovie [Smith] had had in the past in terms of being somebody that comes in during the nickel downs, primarily, and then goes anywhere from the high 40 percent to about 60-62 percent is the effective range of a player that has the skill set that you're looking for.
"Shea was brought in to help us disrupt the passer. We were a better pass-rushing unit a year ago when he was in the game than when he was out of the game. That is again true this year. Where he hasn't had is an impact on sacks. Sacks are king in terms of sacks against you and sacks that you make. They're a huge part of the overall win formula. We have a win formula that has six aspects of it. Sacks are a big part of three of it, and they have a big determination on whether you win or lose from a statistical aspect."
However, Emery has not abandoned hope in regard to McClellin's development. The general manager even went as far as to cite three players he found to be comparable to McClellin who failed to blossom until later in their respective careers.
"When I look at Shea and study Shea and study other players in the league that fit his profile -- Rob Ninkovich from the New England Patriots, and I'm sure I totally screwed that name up; Jason Babin, who's with Jacksonville now; Jerry Hughes, who's down in Buffalo -- the most amazing thing in studying those players, they all had the same general size as Shea, speed, fast athletes, very quick athletes, athletes with versatility," Emery said.
"All three of those guys did not produce right away for their initial team. It took Jason Babin a long time. He went about five or six seasons without any production, and then all of a sudden he had 18 1/2 sacks. Then he had 13 1/2 sacks. And he continues to have sacks this year. Same thing with Rob with New England. His original team? He washed out. He went to another team, no production. He went to the New England Patriots, they found a role for him, and they just re-upped him. He's in his ninth season and he just got a contract extension. He had 91 tackles this year and eight sacks. Same body type, same frame, and same upside. Jerry Hughes, first-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts. Three years of no production. Way less production overall than Shea. Goes to a new team, they find a different role for him. They use him as a hand-down rusher and as a linebacker. That team was one of the higher sack teams in the league. He had 10 sacks this year, 41 tackles."
Emery continued: "What I want for Shea is for it not to take that long, for us to find that role, not for the New England Patriots or the Buffalo Bills or the Jacksonville Jaguars or the Eagles to find those roles, but for us. All of those players have a similar skill set. We need to find a better role fit so that he can be productive as a run-down player and productive as a pass rusher."