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Joniak's Journal: McClellin Making Major Improvements

By Jeff Joniak-

First Impression

Shea McClellin is the leading tackler, top sacker, and tops in disruptive plays through the first half of the season on the defensive line.  While not a finished product, McClellin has not graded out as poorly as has been represented throughout the season.

Hopefully, a sore hamstring that put him on the injury report as "limited" doesn't slow down his progress.  McClellin's teammates proudly spoke of his hard work this week. Cory Wootton in particular said he has been talking to McClellin about staying confident in the face of criticism. If McClellin keeps finishing at the quarterback, the entire Bears defense will benefit.

Second Thought

Give a lot of credit to Jay Cutler for diligently rehabbing his torn left groin.  Over the last 19 days, he's made it his mission to return before the four week minimum window originally established by doctors.  Everything from diet, to hydration, to various treatments, to the rehab work done with head athletic trainer Chris Hanks, and Director of Rehabilitation Bobby Slater who handles the bulk of on field work with injured players, Cutler's done it.

His return to practice Thursday gives him an opportunity - barring a setback or an aggravation - to get back in the saddle and lead his team in an extremely important division battle with the Detroit Lions. If something should happen during the game, Josh McCown has proven he is ready to step in and pick up where Cutler left off.

Third Degree

"We hope so." That was a simple three word answer from Bears coordinator and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer when asked if the Bears are getting more difficult to prepare for. It's clear they are.  From alignments to personnel groupings to plays that set up other plays, in some cases weeks down the road, the offense is growing.

Halfway through the season, the snap repetition, the adjustments, and the language are slowly becoming second nature. Kromer said "We're changing up what we do, formationally, personnel groups, where we put people, and adding concepts as we go as well," Kromer said.

4th and Short

Jay Ratliff now wants to be known as Jeremiah Ratliff.  He's starting a new chapter in his NFL career after eight seasons in Dallas and it includes a name change. Ratliff is likely going to need several weeks to rehab whatever is left of his groin injury and get in football shape as best he can.

It's been nearly a full year since he played. It's worth the wait for the Bears, who could get a very talented defensive tackle in time for a playoff push in the final month-plus of the season.  Ratliff has shown the ability to push the pocket from inside and proven to be a player who can win one-on-one battles. I love the signing, because there is no risk to it, but a big reward even beyond this season.


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