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updated: 7/29/2012 8:54 PM

Bears have a sad lack of sacks

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  • Defensive end Israel Idonije's credentials against the run are more than solid. He led all Bears linemen by a wide margin with 57 tackles last season, 30 more than Julius Peppers -- although that's partly because offenses usually choose to avoid Peppers. But the Bears want more from their defensive ends in the pass rush this season.

      Defensive end Israel Idonije's credentials against the run are more than solid. He led all Bears linemen by a wide margin with 57 tackles last season, 30 more than Julius Peppers -- although that's partly because offenses usually choose to avoid Peppers. But the Bears want more from their defensive ends in the pass rush this season.
    File photo by JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Shea McClellin

      Shea McClellin

 
 

BOURBONNAIS -- It's no secret the Bears used their first draft pick this year on defensive end Shea McClellin because they didn't get an acceptable level of pass rush last year from left end Israel Idonije or backup Corey Wootton.

Despite the double-team attention that Julius Peppers attracts, Idonije's sack total fell from 8 in 2010 to 5 last season, and Wootton struggled to even dress on Sundays, playing briefly in just seven games with a total of 7 tackles and no sacks.

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In all fairness, injuries interrupted Wootton's season. A sprained knee on the opening kickoff of the first preseason game, necessitated arthroscopic surgery, and early in the regular season he suffered a hand injury that limited his effectiveness for weeks.

So the Bears used the 19th overall selection to choose McClellin, a combo defensive end-linebacker who had 16 sacks over the previous two seasons at Boise State.

"The biggest thing it meant for me was that they were looking for somebody else to fill the void of third end," Wootton said. "Unfortunately, last year I didn't really contribute like I wanted to and that's why they drafted him."

Idonije's credentials against the run are more than solid. He led all Bears linemen by a wide margin with 57 tackles last season, 30 more than Peppers -- although that's partly because offenses usually choose to avoid Peppers. But the Bears want more from their defensive ends in the pass rush.

"Everyone that straps it up, you have to be able to contribute and be effective," Idonije said. "That's the mantra. When I put my hand down I have to contribute, I have to be able to make plays and help the defense and help the team. That's what it's all about."

Idonije is naturally a bit defensive about the opinion that Peppers didn't get enough help from him or the other pass rushers last season, but he also acknowledges that it's a legitimate concern.

"I had plenty of opportunities," Idonije said. "I had a lot of quarterback hits and hurries. I have to translate those into sacks. That's the bottom line for me."

Idonije was second last season in quarterback pressures with 37, according to team statistics, trailing only Peppers, who had 55. But too often, there's a big difference between getting close and actually getting a sack.

"No. 1 is to just finish," the 6-foot-6, 275-pound nine-year veteran said. "I left a lot of plays on the field last year -- literally just a step off. Being able to capitalize on those plays, that's game-changing so that's really the next step for me.

"I know the defense, I know how to read an offense. I know that when I have opportunities and I have 1-on-1s, I have to get to the quarterback."

If McClellin continues to build on an impressive early start as a pass-rush threat, he will, if nothing else, get a lot of snaps in nickel situations. Bears coach Lovie Smith scoffs at the notion that the 6-foot-3, 260-pound McClellin might not have the requisite size to be an every-down defensive end. It's way too soon to make that prediction, but no one's ruling it out.

"Could he be a starter?" said general manager Phil Emery of his first-ever Bears draft choice. "Possibly, (but) he'd have to beat Izzy (Idonije) out. Could (McClellin) be a role player? Possibly. He'll have to earn that."

McClellin is well aware of why he was drafted by the Bears -- and overdrafted in the opinion of some. He's here to get after the quarterback, and he's already flashed impressive tenacity and other pass-rush skills in drills and 11-on-11 team work. But he's also gotten stalemated at times, as he was by undrafted rookie James Brown during 1-on-1 drills in Sunday afternoon's practice.

"I just have a mentality of never quitting, and that's what I try to do," he said after Sunday's practice. "Today my pass rushing wasn't very good, so I was kind of disappointed. I'm pretty hard on myself so I've got to do better than that."

McClellin said he's able to go to Peppers and Idonije for help, ironic in that he's expected to take playing time from Idonije.

"Everyone that joins us, they're a part of our team," the veteran said. "My goal is to win on Sundays and to be successful every time we as a team step on the field. He's a part of that."

rlegere@dailyherald.com

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