McClellin flashes first-round potential

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears rookie defensive end Shea McClellin provided Thursday glimpses of why the organization was so high on him in the draft.

McClellin’s reviews, especially when he’s been engaged with offensive linemen, have been mostly subpar through the early goings of training camp. On Thursday, he struggled again early in practice, but he progressed as the afternoon wore on and displayed elite athleticism and speed on a number of plays.

McClellin caught everyone’s eye when he leaped and intercepted a screen pass from quarterback Jason Campbell at the line of scrimmage. His teammates hi-fived him, and the fans loudly cheered him, even if he didn’t hear them.

“You know what I don’t hear the crowd,” said McClellin, who was drafted out of Boise State as the No. 19 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. “That’s the weird thing. I’m tuned into what I’m doing there.

“I just saw the quarterback dropping back, so I was going for an inside rush. I saw him dropping back further, so I kind of stopped and just waited for him to throw it. Luckily, it was right in my hands, I guess.”

Bears coach Lovie Smith was among those impressed, but he also has high expectation for McClellin. Smith believes it’s just too early to make judgments.

“I like his progress,” Smith said. “(The interception) was impressive, but he can make a play like that. When you’re a first-round draft pick coming in, there’s a lot of pressure on you to be all-pro right away. It takes time. But he has great quickness and speed. He works hard, good athletic ability. Nothing can stop him from being a really good football player.”

McClellin admitted Thursday he has felt a bit overwhelmed.

“My head’s in all different directions because I’m getting advice from players, the coaches,” McClellin said. “I just got to focus in and do what they’re teaching me and hone in on those things.”

McClellin appeared locked in when the Bears allowed full contact during the final portion of Thursday’s practice. He got off the line quickly, was able to often avoid his blocker and get into the backfield on a handful of plays.

McClellin sensed he was making progress late into practice, but he was far from patting himself on the back.

“Towards the end, I felt like I did better than normal,” McClellin said. “Early on, I felt like I had cement legs. I have to work past that. Overall, I think it was all right.

“I think I’ve been working on getting better every day. I think I am so far. Just I got to keep grinding and keep learning from the older guys and coach (Rod) Marinelli and get better every day.”