Chicago Sun-Times

Bears bring back Commando for special teams help

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In another sign that the Bears believe they will be healed up soon at linebacker, the club has made a roster move at the position with an eye toward special teams and not the defense.

That means Derrick Brooks is not coming to town. Instead, veteran linebacker Darrell McClover has been brought in for the second time in just more than a month, according to a source close to the player. McClover was signed by the team and takes the place of DeAngelo Smith, who was claimed off waivers from the Cleveland Browns two weeks ago. The Chicago Tribune first reported Smith would be cut. McClover can help on special teams immediately, an area that has been thinned out because of the injuries at linebacker. The Bears signed Tim Shaw was as a young guy who could come in and help out on special teams after Brian Urlacher was lost for the season. McClover can also do that and he's probably more familiar with the defense than Shaw.

McClover was the sixth linebacker the team kept on the roster last year. He appeared in 10 games but was placed on injured reserve in late November with a pulled hamstring. He produced 14 tackles on special teams and added a blocked punt. McClover made 36 special teams tackles in 28 games for the Bears from 2006 to 2008, earning the nickname "Commando" from teammates. He had a tryout with the Houston Texans during the offseason, and then was brought in for the final two preseason games where the Bears got a look at him and then made him one of the final roster cuts.

Middle linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer has a rib injury, and strong-side linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa is working his way back from a sprained right knee. There is a chance one or both will be available for Sunday's game vs. Detroit. In the event they cannot play, McClover is probably more familiar with the scheme than Shaw. However, be clear that the team is not re-signing McClover to play on defense. This was a made move to bolster Dave Toub's special teams units that have been mixed up by the injuries.

Smith could be a candidate to return to the practice squad if he is not picked up elsewhere. He was a fifth-round pick by the Dallas Cowboys.

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14 Comments

Very weird move. Since the start of the year we have had three starting LB's banged up or knocked out. In response we've signed two LB's who essentially contribute solely on special teams. We had better hope we don't lose another LB, or we will be stuck playing guys who offer little on the field on defense.

By my figuring, Rashied Davis, Tim Shaw, Adrian Peterson, Garrett Wolfe, McClover, and Craig Steltz all made this team primarily as special teams contributors. That is a big investment of roster spots that could have been devoted to developing young talent - something the Bears have done poorly over the past few years.

I hope they see some improved play from their special teams because of it. So far, it seems more like the other teams have played worse on ST, than the Bears have really stood out.

Tom,

How is it weird... you might be looking at this incorrectly.

McClover is here for special teams because Roach and Jamar Williams will be playing the defense more and the ST less. One of the reasons the staff split the SAM (strong side LB) duties between Nick and Jamar against Seattle (pre injury to Hunter) is because they needed them both on ST, esp. punt and kick coverage. Now with both playing on the defense, these two will probably be on the field less for ST duties.

As for the others you mentioned allocated for ST, well you need to put 11 out there. And all of the backups should be on one or more ST squads.

For your final point about not developing players. Ok we are not perfect -- now is the time for someone to mention Roosevelt Williams, Okwa (sp) or Bauzin (sp) -- but I think the Bears have a good (not very good) core of young proven players:

Hester, Cutler, Forte, Olsen, Chris Williams (possible), Manning, Knox, Kellen Davis (possible), Bowman, Gilbert (possible) and DJ Moore (possible) that is 11 players or 25% of your roster as young (26 & under) and show some promise. Seven of those players have proven themselves on the field. That's better than most teams.

So the move to bring back Mc Clover is not weird. Non-starters have to play ST and there is a good young core over at Halas Hall.

That is the same line of reasoning we heard when the cuts were made, and guys like Wolfe, Rashied, and AP made the roster - not to mention 11 DB's.

Now, Forte is banged up and running for a 2.8 yard avg, and we are down 3 starting LBs if you count HH. And what do we have to back them up? Do you like the idea of Shaw or McClover as your outside LB? How is Wolfe up the middle for one yard working out for you? One more injury, and that's where we are.

Sorry, I stand by the comment. Good teams develop a deep, young bench. They get their ST bodies from that pool, and coach them up. They don't stockpile a bunch of guys who can only realistically contribute on ST.

Tom,

Yes, backups have to be able to play on ST -- which are around 25% of the game snaps.

Rashied made the roster because he was a better ST player than Rideau. That makes sense as you are talking about your 3rd stringer.

The case for Wolfe and AP was different. They both made it when Kevin Jones went out for the year. If Jones was not injured Wolfe and AP would have only made it at the expense of another DB.

We kept 11 DBs because as David Haugh of the Tribune and Brad here pointed out it was more a reflection of they did not know how well their frontline players (Vasher, Tillman, Bowman and Manning) would do since all had injuries or questionable play. Still the Bears have carried 10 DB in the Lovie years as they use them on ST more than other teams. CB are very prized in this era of passing.

Shaw and McClover will be fine -- if they only have to step up for a portion of the Lions game. Remember we have a bye week after this. The writing from the beat writers is that Pisa T will be back either this week or in two weeks when they play next. Again that makes perfect sense to have someone short term cover the needs on the ST because Jamar and Nick will be more involved in the defense.

So I still don't see why you are complaining about this move. It makes logical sense.

Finally, no one has a deep young bench like the did in the 1980's. The cost of the game is you pay for starters and hope you can survive a few minor injuries. You use the practice squad for developing players under 3 years of service.

I live in Redskin country and they got killed on their OL last year when they had 2 major injuries and 2 were banged up. In fact in one game last year they had to re-enter someone who was clearly injured because they had no other options. Now one can blame Dan Snyder for losing 2 lineman in one game.

Remember even though there is a 53 man roster only 45 dress. Bears have only 2 linemen in reserve on Sunday.

So if you can't see this reasoning, what is your solution to getting enough LB dressed for Sunday?

We need to get younger. This team is good now but with Cutler, Forte, Hester, Olsen, etc.etc. as the young core we should be great and quick!! I feel this injury to 54 is a blessing in disquise. We need more youth on "D" and 53, 52, 35, 24, 44, 94, 90, is a good start. BEAR DOWN!!!

I like the move, but am mildly concerned about the position.

Roach and Williams have not been models of good health during their pro and collegiate careers. And even if Hunter and Pisa play Sunday, they will not be at 100 percent.

I like bringing in McClover, but don't think the team can afford having two ST LBs at a time when they have only three healthy players who can actually contribute at the position -- unless they think Shaw has become a more disciplined player from his Penn State days.

Hopefully, nothing will happen, and they will be well rested following the bye.

I am not worried, and the bye week has a lot to do with it. Pisa may be ready this week, he was almost a go last week. He is a sure thing for after the Bye. Hunter will be back after the bye, hopefully they don't rush him back this week. With those two back, we are once again only down Urlacher. No one expects Shaw or McClover to play on the starting defense. Briggs, Roach, and Williams will play. Tinoisamoa may be back in this week too. Like I said, if not, we will have him and Hillenmeyere back after the bye, putting us back up to 6 of our 7 1st and 2nd string LBs.

Shaw and McClover are here to tackle, because apparently no one else wants to.

Adrian Peterson is on our team still because there is no one else who can run between the tackles if Forte goes down. It was supposed to be Jones, but go figure he is on IR. If there was someone else, Peterson's job might be in danger. Maybe next year.

Wolfe and Steltz are here because we are stubborn and take 1 year too long to admit we drafted players who can't...Play. Steltz is football smart but not athletic enough. Wolfe is just too small, and frankly, doesn't have the same explosion or elusiveness the other small players in our league have. He is not Sproles because he isn't that fast or shifty or even strong.

Davis made the roster under the assumption he can play ST, but also because he was the only option besides Hester who had caught a pass in our offense, EVER. We hoped, but had no way of knowing 100% that once the game lights came on Knox and Bennett could play as well as they have. Now we know, and next year you can look for Davis to leave most likely.

Just my thoughts though, and what do I know?

I agree that this is a sound move and that the Bears need to keep a youth movement - well - moving on defense.

But why not bring in Brooks? The team is wrought with injury at the Linebacker position. You can still rotate young guys in and play Brooks. The guy's got Superbowl experience and a great grasp of the Lovie-2.

Bring the guy in!

That is, unless he wants 10-million per season. In that case, save the money and resign Cutler.

Biggsey, just what is Cutler's contract situation? Is he an unrestricted Free Agent next year?

Y'all are reading a lot into one free agent signing. Sometimes teams sign a free agent during the season simply to plug a hole. For example, did you think the Eagles put Jeff Garcia on the roster for developmental reasons?

They have several players hurt. The young guys they have been bringing along are being asked to step up and play with the ones. Somebody has to cover kicks until a few guys heal up. McClover is available and can do that. What's the big deal?

It looked like they did bring in a young guy they liked and wanted to check out with Shaw.

Now Wolfe does belong in the discussion. He is a confusing player to me. He seems to be a position player who has learned to play special teams very well. Special teams play does hinge a lot on "want to", but it's not all attitude. A good special teams player is usually a player with talent. Wolfe plays special teams like he has some talent. However when he has been given opportunities at running back he appears to lack talent. I keep waiting for him to have a breakout game, but it hasn't happened yet.

Bottom line is that the numbers allow you to carry a linebacker on the roster primarily to play special teams. The numbers do not favor carrying a running back who is not a running back first and a special teamer second. Wolfe needs to start showing some production at running back.

Seems a sensible enough move to me. I am not sure why starters cannot also play on special teams but assume it's the injury potential. That being the case and the tradition, a good special team player who can fill in at a critical position seems to make good sense.

estevenj wrote:
"I agree that this is a sound move and that the Bears need to keep a youth movement - well - moving on defense... But why not bring in Brooks? The team is wrought with injury at the Linebacker position."

I don't see how you can have a youth movement AND bring in a 36 yr old LB unless they are fielding a 50+ football league then you have some years to groom him. If you bring in both Brooks and some young guys who do you cut? (Ok let's hear it now Rashied.)NFL allows the practice squad to help develop some young players as well as the 8 player who can't suit up on Sunday from the 53 man roster.

"Biggsey, just what is Cutler's contract situation? Is he an unrestricted Free Agent next year?"

Not Briggs, obviously, but he signed a six year deal in 2006. So he is a free agent after the 2011 season. With the CBA going uncapped in 2010 and pushing back free agency for many players (not sure if it will apply here as most of the players who go FA are after year 4) as well as the possibility of a lock out in 2011 it might be a bit early to lock him up. Although in the 3 games we have had him I like what we have.

As far as I'm concerned, at this point I don't complain too much about what's added for special teams since they've been probably our best phase for the past three years (although it has been slipping of late). I am a bit concerned of how many players are devoted to special teams especially when we are thin at areas like DT but I figure that this is behind the scenes stuff that we wouldn't have questions a few years ago.
As far as Wolfe is concerned, I hear a lot of people say he hasn't had success or he hasn't been used in the right situation. Wolfe and Peterson have both made some pretty good runs when given the opportunity. But I'll say this: I won't attack any of the running backs production until we actually have a good offensive line, and for the last 5 years AT LEAST, our offensive line has been mediocre at best. That's why Thomas Jones even though he had a bunch of yards only got like 3.5ypc. I won't speak of Benson..
I think if our running game has been suffering there are creative ways that we could get them more in the game like spitting them wide more often, or screens since all three of our backs have pretty good hands. I would really like to see them do more 2 rb formations. That could be a mismatch haven especially if they're spit wide but I doubt that will happen.

Thanks for the clarification on Cutler's contract MD Kev,

I do think you can bring in Brooks for the season and still commit to a youth movement. Why? Urlacher, Pina, and Hillenmeyer are all down. I guess Pina is supposedly practicing. But what happens if Roach or Briggs sprain an ankle? Or break a toe? Or blow an ACL? Isn't Urlacher on IR? Can't Brooks take his roster spot if he's truly out for the season? I question Hillenmeyer's ability to be productive with a bruised or cracked rib. I hear what you're saying, but, should the Bears be so committed to the youth movement they'll take a practice squadder from Johnson Tech for 12-14 games over All-Pro Derrick Brooks? I'll take Brooks.

Well, I'm not worried about the defense. And I'm glad they got back McClover. Just think, the Bears could be remembered as having one of the greatest special teams units ever. The defense proved itself (sorta) against the Lions, who had to deal with Calvin Johnson.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on September 29, 2009 3:14 PM.

Four Down Territory, Sept. 29: Vasher, the run game & the O-line was the previous entry in this blog.

Cutler press conference in 20 minutes; Lions say little about RB Smith is the next entry in this blog.

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