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Scouting Jets linebacker Albert McClellan

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

With camp now underway, we’re going to take a look at some more of the Jets’ offseason acquisitions, continuing today with Albert McClellan.

McClellan is a 33-year old linebacker who was undrafted out of Marshall in 2010. He has started 24 games in his career, racking up 173 tackles, three sacks, three passes defensed and two forced fumbles. However, he mostly played special teams last year, ending the regular season with seven tackles in 13 games.

Background

McClellan had a productive career at Marshall, where he mostly played as an undersized defensive end. In four seasons, he racked up 230 tackles, 42 tackles for loss, 21 sacks, 11 passed defensed and seven forced fumbles, although he had to redshirt his junior year due to injury.

McClellan’s best season was 2006 as he was named the Conference USA’s defensive player of the year after leading the conference in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss. He was also a first-team Conference USA selection in 2008, but dropped down to the second team as a redshirt senior.

Despite a strong performance at the scouting combine, McClellan went undrafted and spent his rookie year on the Ravens’ practice squad. However, he made one start in a rotational role in 2011 and then was a key contributor as the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2012. McClellan started 11 games and racked up 49 tackles.

Over the next three years, McClellan moved back into a rotational role with the Ravens, as he didn’t start any games and posted a total of 43 tackles.

However, in 2016, he found himself back in the starting lineup for 11 games, setting a career-high with 55 tackles. Unfortunately, injury caused him to miss the entire 2017 season, though.

Last season, McClellan was released in final cuts, but re-signed a few weeks later due to an injury to one of McClellan’s new teammates, CJ Mosley. He started one of the next six games but had just three tackles and then was released to make room for another of his new Jets teammates, Ty Montgomery.

New England claimed McClellan and he made an impact for them on special teams and in occasional rotational work. He had five tackles for them in seven regular season and three postseason games, as he went on to collect his second Super Bowl ring.

Now let’s take a look at what McClellan brings to the table, divided into categories.

Measurables/Athleticism

McClellan was considered as an undersized edge when he first entered the league, having weighed 247 at the combine. He’s currently listed at 235 but has also been listed at 250 during his career. McClellan has said he consulted with the Ravens before each season to determine what his role would be and then cut or added weight as appropriate in time for camp.

While it was all the way back in 2010, McClellan’s combine workout numbers were excellent. He posted a 4.75 in the 40-yard dash and his strength and explosiveness numbers were excellent. His short shuttle (4.21) was also good, but his three-cone drill was disappointing.

Usage

McClellan has played both as an edge and as an off-ball linebacker during his time with the Ravens, although most of his starts were on the edge. He hardly ever played with his hand in the dirt.

Last season, he got most of his reps as an off-ball linebacker both with the Patriots and in regular season and preseason action with Baltimore.

Making reads/Instincts

McClellan understands his responsibilities well and is capable of diagnosing plays and making good reads. In the Super Bowl he played just one defensive snap but immediately made an impact by closing to make a tackle for loss in the flat.

He sniffs out this play well too, reacting quickly to force the receiver to try and go outside and then cleaning up in the backfield once the cornerback has slowed him up.

He’s not immune to mistakes though. In his haste to get out to the flat on this play from preseason last year, McClellan overshoots the fullback who ends up wide open underneath for an easy touchdown.

Run defense

McClellan has held up well against the run over the course of his career, especially in the two seasons where he started multiple games, both of which saw him earn a grade of over 70 for run defense according to Pro Football Focus. On this play he shows an ability to set the edge and get off a block to make the stop.

However, he can have issues with pad level that can allow him to be controlled at the point of attack.

Off the ball, he has decent range, takes good angles in pursuit and shows some ability to knife through traffic to make plays. He also uses his hands well to fight off blocks.

Coverage skills

McClellan is not really a coverage linebacker, although he’s capable of dropping off into a shallow zone and reacting to short passes.

Over the course of his career, quarterbacks have a rating of over 115 when targeting McClellan in coverage. However, he’s only given up three touchdowns, all in 2016, and hasn’t surrendered a lot of big plays. The longest was a Matt Forte 31-yard gain on a 2016 screen play where McClellan got blocked at the line by Brian Winters.

He can be exploited in space, though. Over the course of his career, McClellan has occasionally lined up in the slot. He’s been targeted on seven occasions in that role, for seven catches including a touchdown.

As you can see, he doesn’t really have the recovery speed to stay with a receiver who beats him at the line in a man-to-man situation.

McClellan hasn’t made many plays on the ball with no interceptions in the NFL or in college. However, he had 11 passes defensed in his college career and, at the NFL level, he has broken up two passes and batted one down at the line.

Special teams

McClellan is an excellent special teamer, who was named as an all-pro in that role by Pro Football Focus last season. His contributions included two blocked punts, a key recovery of a muffed punt and six tackles in kick coverage.

This was one of his punt blocks, both of which came in the same game. However, he also came close on a few other occasions.

McClellan contributes on all special teams units and has been productive in kick coverage throughout his career. He racked up 50 special teams tackles between 2011 and 2014, including 15 in 2014 to place him among the league leaders.

He’s also contributed as a blocker, although he has three holding penalties and an illegal block in the back in his career.

Tackling

McClellan is a reliable tackler who is capable of leveling big hits and stopping a runner in their tracks.

He hasn’t missed a lot of tackles in his career, averaging just one or two per season apart from in 2016 when he had seven in 11 starts.

Pass rush

Although he played on the edge and racked up some big sack numbers at times during his college career, McClellan isn’t really a threat to generate much pressure off the edge at the NFL level.

He’s never had more than one sack in a season, only generating one pressure every 17 pass rush attempts, although he’s been slightly more productive in preseason.

He doesn’t have an array of pass rush moves and isn’t likely to win many one-on-ones but he works hard and can make the occasional play in a clean-up role or on a blitz or stunt.

Intangibles

McClellan apparently has tremendous character and constantly works with younger players to advise them about on and off-field matters and break down their assignments for them.

John Harbaugh has praised McClellan’s work ethic, while Ray Lewis lauded his leadership and Terrell Suggs called him “a demigod”.

He came from a strong family background and has been motivated by the loss of his mother to cancer during his rookie year.

On the field, he’s been disciplined in terms of not committing a lot of penalties, with zero defensive penalties in all but one of his pro seasons. However, he has been called for unnecessary roughness four times in his career, mostly on special teams, so he can get over-exuberant on occasion. He was also in the middle of a huge brawl during a joint practice in camp last season.

Injuries

McClellan has had two ACL tears, although they were a decade apart. One was as a junior in college and the other was in 2017.

He also missed time with an ankle injury in his redshirt senior year, but has been durable for most of his pro career.

Scheme fit

McClellan’s ability to play edge or off the ball is valuable, but the timing of the move suggests he’s going to be relied upon to add depth to the inside linebacker positions.

McClellan has obviously played with Mosley in the past and he’s also been teammates with the likes of Eric Smith, Deonte Thompson, Bronson Kaufusi and Alex Lewis.

It could also useful to have an experienced player in the fold in case Mosley gets injured and they need someone else to take over the headset.

Conclusions

McClellan might not be a candidate to start but gives the Jets another option with experience, versatility and special teams abilities that others on the team may not have.

He’s not a dynamic pass rusher or particularly good in coverage, but his abilities against the run would be useful and those are the contributions the Jets need to replace in the wake of Williamson’s injury.

It will be interesting to see if McClellan can prove how much he has left over the next few weeks and earn himself a spot on the 53.