As the Chicago Bears prepare for their third preseason game they’re still trying to figure out if two of General Manager Phil Emery’s highest draft picks can play.
Although they’re both still young, there wasn’t much evidence at all that either Shea McClellin or Jon Bostic were going to be good football players. But last week’s game against Jacksonville was interesting and was enough to once again raise the question: Who are these guys?
You know their histories. Both were high picks, neither has played like a high pick so far in their careers. There have been flashes, but nothing consistent or any real reason to think that that consistency will come.
Coach Marc Trestman and Emery have done everything possible to make Bostic and McClellin successful. They have new coaches, new positions and a system that is supposed to fit their strengths.
The Bears have lightened Bostic’s load as he plays mostly in nickel situations and not in the starting base package. McClellin plays the opposite. He’s the starting strongside linebacker in the team’s base defense, but a reserve in their nickel defense. The Bear are actively trying to put both players in a position to succeed, it’s a good bet that their roles will grow if they play well.
Early reviews weren’t good. Neither player stood out early in camp and both struggled in the team’s first preseason game. Then came the second preseason game. It looked like a light might have turned on.
On Jacksonville’s first drive, McClellin USED HIS HANDS to beat a blocker and make a tackle short of the first down marker on second-and-two. It’s important to note how he beat the blocker because it wasn’t a case of him being faster or luckily catching the blocker off balance. He beat him with technique.
On the very next play, Bostic exploded into the backfield, blew up Luke Joeckel and made a tackle for a loss. Jacksonville had to settle for a field goal because the Bears second and third-year linebackers made exceptional plays.
It was more than just two plays. Throughout the entire game they looked confident, comfortable and fast. They looked good attacking the line of scrimmage. They looked good dropping back in coverage. They looked like good football players. It isn’t a look either had often last year.
What does it mean? That’s hard to say. It was just a preseason game against one of the worst offenses in the league. In the past, though, it didn’t seem to matter who they were playing (other than the Packers, who Shea has owned) or, really when, they didn’t look good. Now we at least have a very minor indication that they are capable of playing very good football.
Was that a fluke? Or was it a sign of actual development? We all will find out a little more tomorrow night. They’re both likely going to play a lot, maybe even together occasionally. The only way anyone can know if they’re capable is with more reps.
Even after that game we still won’t know who they are for sure, but we’ll at least have a better indication. Whether they struggle or play well, we still won’t know a whole lot (certainly not as much as the coaches who also have practice tape to go off of). But we’ll have a little more information and the more we know, the closer we (and the Bears) can get to making a final determination.
The Bears don’t know what they have in those two. Neither do you. Neither do I. They don’t even know how good they are or can be. We’ll hopefully know a little more tomorrow night.