Emery still defending a No. 1 pick that can't defend the run

McClellin's future

Chicago Bears defensive end Shea McClellin (99) warms up before the game against the St. Louis Rams at Edward Jones Dome. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune / November 24, 2013)

No surprise that Phil Emery would run interference for Shea McClellin.

Just as it’s no surprise that every opponent runs directly at Emery’s first draft pick.

Connect the dots, Phil.

But no. the Bears general manager has his own dots, using analytics designed by the Bears that laud McClellin for his pass-rushing ability and effect on the rest of the Bears' defensive line.

That’s supposed to be a compliment, just so you know.

“I will just put it to you simply: We’re a much better unit with Shea on the field in terms of our total pressures, disruptions and sacks as a unit,’’ Emery told a panel discussion at a WBBM-AM 780 fan luncheon Tuesday.

McClellin changed the NFC North when he sacked Aaron Rodgers into a broken collarbone in the Bears’ big win over the Packers. McClellin also had a piece of the collision that knocked out Christian Ponder in the Bears’ big loss to the Vikings that undid their big win in Green Bay.

So, McClellin is 1-1 in divisional sacks. Not all quarterbacks are meant to leave the game because of injury.

“When he comes off the field,’’ Emery continued, “he has the single biggest impact of coming off the field on what that metric looks like. So I know in my heart and what the numbers tell me that he’s contributing positively while he grows as a player.’’

Yes, growing as a player. It has been two years and McClellin still hasn’t grown smart enough to read his keys and hasn’t grown strong enough to hold his point of attack.

McClellin remains easily suckered on running plays. See the Rams and Tavon Austin’s 65-yard TD counter end-around for details.

What’s worse, when McClellin attempts the rare outside contain, he can’t shed a block. Mostly, he gets handled like a shopping cart.

Potential is what you want to make it, but the present is this: McClellin is a gimmick, and gimmicks used regularly become regular problems.

Sure, you can gin up numbers that show your prized project is a pass-rushing factor, but should your first-round pick be a project?

And by stressing his influence on the pass rush, you completely ignore his targeted role in making the Bears run defense the worst in the NFL and historically bad for a historic franchise.

Here are some metrics that are rather raw, but numbers serve their ginner-upper: McClellin missed games against the Lions and Ravens in which the Bears gave up 145 and 174 rushing yards, respectively, but managed a split. McClellin returned against the Rams and Vikings in which the Bears gave up 258 and 246 rushing yards -- a staggering 504 total -- and lost both.

Yeah, I know it’s not all McClellin, but it starts with him. Every opponent’s rushing offense starts with McClellin and will continue to race through Highway 99 until the kid from Chicken Dinner Road puts some meat on his frame and proves he knows how to use it.

Connect those dots, Phil.

Yeah, I expect Emery to stick by his top draft pick, but somebody has to see that Corey Wooton and street free agent David Bass are better options if you want to stop the run first because every opponent wants to establish the run first.

But the more that Emery seems to ignore McClellin’s screaming, obvious, targeted weakness, the more he comes off as an executive willing to sacrifice his credibility to cover his backside.

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