New England Patriots: Shea McClellin could flourish in hybrid defensive role

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 11: Linebacker Shea McClellin
GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 11: Linebacker Shea McClellin /

When it comes to drawing comparisons, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick believes Shea McClellin has skill sets similar to Rob Ninkovich.

Not many people are talking about New England Patriots linebacker Shea McClellin.  But, the Boise State alum may just be the perfect player to fill the void left by Rob Ninkovich.

Following his first season with the Patriots, McClellin will get an opportunity to replace a player he looks up to.  As both players have similar skill sets, head coach Bill Belichick could turn to McClellin to play the hybrid linebacker/defensive end role Ninkovich flourished in.

The 6-foot-3, 250-pound McClellin is certainly no stranger to defensive end.  He played the position at the beginning of last season and rushed the edge in college and during his rookie year with the Chicago Bears.  Used as mostly a linebacker as the season went along, Shea McClellin may find himself in the perfect situation with the Patriots.

FOXBORO, MA – DECEMBER 24: Bilal Powell
FOXBORO, MA – DECEMBER 24: Bilal Powell /

Not only does the position/role fit his skill sets, he has experience and the knowledge he gained watching Ninkovich to flourish in the role.

Related Story: New England Patriots: Rob Ninkovich’s retirement opens door for Kyle Van Noy

Belichick’s guy?

Before practice on Monday, Belichick compared McClellin to Ninkovich.  The comparisons were both in his versatility and work ethic.

"“Shea’s really been good,” Belichick told reporters, as transcribed by the Worcester Telegram. “He had a lot of experience before he got here of playing on the line in college, and for a year in Chicago, then he played primarily off the line. We did both with him last year as a primary position and then we have different calls on different defensive fronts and alignments where he could be in either spot from one play to the next, even though the same people are in the game.“So, he’s worked very hard to play with those different techniques and have versatility for us playing on the end of the line, playing off the line, playing in pass coverage, rushing the passer, running games with the defensive linemen and has a number of roles in the kicking game for us. He’s smart, he’s athletic, he runs well, he’s got good size, he’s got experience, so he’s really a very valuable and versatile guy for us. He can do a lot of different things.”More from Chowder and Champions3 Midseason Chaim Bloom Decisions That Have Killed the 2023 Red Sox10 Patriots Who Will Be Cut by Tuesday’s Roster DeadlineMLB Screws Red Sox Fans With Broadcast for Mookie Betts Return3 Most Underpaid Celtics Heading Into the 2023 SeasonRed Sox Continue Rollercoaster Season With Massive Win"

In his first season with the New England Patriots, McClellin recorded 41 tackles and a sack.  He came up with a couple of big plays in special teams and came up with a fumble recovery in Week 17 against the Miami Dolphins.  While he didn’t stand out on defense, he was solid and did what he was asked to do.

Friendly competition

This season with the Patriots, he knows he has to be even more dependable and make the type of big plays Ninkovich made.  Although he seemingly has the inside track as a replacement to the player he looks up to, there is competition.  Players like Kyle Van Noy, Kony Ealy along with rookies Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise and Harvey Langi are also hungry to contribute.

There have also been rumblings that either Dont’a Hightower or even veteran linebacker David Harris may convert to that hybrid linebacker/defensive end role.

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In my opinion, if Shea McClellin finds a way to flourish, the Patriots defense will be stronger.  It leaves those two players in their natural positions and would stabilize a role now left up in the air due to the retirement of Ninkovich.