Chris Long and Terrance Knighton came to the Patriots with higher profiles, but Shea McClellin was the defender in which New England invested the most money this offseason.
McClellin, the 19th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, signed a three-year, $9.050 million contract with $3.5 million guaranteed. He began his NFL career as a defensive end but moved to middle linebacker in 2014 and 2015 with the Bears. He’ll likely stay at stand-up linebacker with the Patriots, but he’s not stuck in one role.
“I think that one of the best aspects of my game is just my versatility,” McClellin said Wednesday in a conference call with the media. “I think moving me around is what gets the best out of me, but I think last year (I) definitely gained a lot of confidence. I played middle-backer in high school, it had nothing to do with that, but just the instincts and that kind of thing, but I feel comfortable anywhere, outside, inside but last year definitely grew. I enjoyed having that leadership role there in Chicago, but it just didn’t work out, so now I’m here and trying to do the best that I can here.”
Fortunately for McClellin, Patriots linebackers frequently are able to flash their pass-rushing prowess in Bill Belichick’s defense. McClellin said he’s most comfortable on the field when he’s moving forward rather than dropping back.
“Any aspect with my hand down or standing up, any kind of blitzing, any linebacker position really, anywhere where I’m rushing the passer I feel comfortable in,” McClellin said.
McClellin ideally won’t be asked to cover often for the Patriots. He’ll likely serve as a starter in New England’s base defense, when opposing offenses are more apt to run the ball on early downs. If McClellin is used in obvious passing situations, it likely will be as a pass rusher or because of injuries to starters Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower.
“I think I’m a little bit aware of how the coaches run things around there,” McClellin said. “I think that they try to get the best out of every player they have, and that’s something that I try to bring.”
McClellin had 16.5 sacks in his final season at Boise State as a pass rusher, then added 7.5 in his first three seasons with the Bears.
Thumbnail photo via Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports Images
Aug 14, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears linebacker Shea McClellin (50) during the third quarter of the preseason game at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
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