Corey Wootton in 2012.
BOURBONNAIS- On Monday, the Chicago Bears released their first depth chart of the 2013 season. And aside from the recent development with Kyle Long, the most intriguing position is the contest at left defensive end between Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin.
Both players are listed as “co-starters” at the position. Coming into 2013, both men were expected to have a highly contested battle to start alongside Julius Peppers. Wootton and McClellin are both still young players who are trying to find their identity in the National Football League.
The 24-year-old McClellin is in his second year with the Bears and has the most to prove. Drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft, the Boise State alum was labeled as a solid pass rusher and a “sack machine”.
There were concerns about his size as he is only 6-3 and weighed 250-pounds on draft day. During his first few full-contact practices in 2012, McClellin struggled to work his way past the bigger lineman he was going up against. And while he did get plenty of reps during his rookie year, he only managed to grab 2 1/2 sacks and 14 total tackles.
During the offseason, the Idaho native hit the weight room hard and bulked up to 260-pounds for 2013. He now needs to show a combination of strength and speed as well as an improved pass rush to make an impression on his coaches.
McClellin also needs to get high sack numbers and tackles in the preseason if he is to become the opening day starter. As for Corey Wootton, his NFL journey is a little different. Drafted in the fourth round in 2010, the 26-year-old overcame the odds to make the active roster. Despite his 6-6, 270-pound frame, Wootton struggled to catch on in his rookie season.
He didn’t record his first sack until December of 2010. Despite the growing pains, the former Northwestern standout was expected to make big strides in 2011. Unfortunately, nagging injuries kept Wootton off the field for the majority of the 2011 season.
With the prospect of being released looming over his head last year, the New Jersey native finally broke out of his shell. He recorded seven sacks that year and had a big fumble recovery for a touchdown against Tennessee in Week 9. Wootton has been consistently improving and working hard to turn heads in Bears camp.
This year, Wootton has gotten stronger in the weight room and showed improved speed during the offseason workout sessions. If he is to be lined up across from Julius Peppers come September, No. 98 needs to continue to develop and harness his skills.
He also needs to have a solid preseason and show even more progression than he did in 2012. These next four weeks will push both of these men to their limits. But at the end of the day, NFL glory is on the line.
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