The defensive end with an impressive record is hoping new colleagues will work with him in trying to get the Chicago defence back in order.
Chicago Bears bullish on Jared Allen’s good show
He was the big prize, the main event of the overhaul, except that Jared Allen was not really interested in stealing the spotlight.
When it comes to the Chicago Bears and the anticipated improvement of their defence, he insisted it is about more than just him.
“It’s not going to be a person,” Allen said on Friday as he and the Bears began training ahead of the new NFL season.
“It’s going to be a collective whole. It’s going to be the energy of each individual and what they bring to the table.”
A five-time Pro Bowl defensive end, Allen brings quite a bit to a defence that last year ranked among the worst in the league and in franchise history, and his arrival is a major reason why the Bears are aiming higher this season.
The Bears believe they have the defence to back their offence, thanks to an overhaul that brought in Allen and several other key players. They believe they can make the play-offs after going 8-8 a year ago and missing the post-season for the sixth time in seven years.
Yes, expectations are soaring in Chicago. And there is no bigger symbol of hope than the 1.98-metre, 123-kilogram Allen.
That symbol was on display as the Bears conducted their first training camp practice.
Coach Marc Trestman said Allen “set the tone defensively” along with fellow newcomer Lamarr Houston and the returning Jeremiah Ratliff.
“You watch the way they move and run to the ball, they really made an effort to show the guys around them how to do it,” Trestman said. “That was clear through his performance today. Not only started fast – finished strong.”
The Bears brought in Allen to provide the sort of spark they missed last season, when a long list of injuries and poor play hurt a defence that usually ranked among the league’s best under former coach Lovie Smith.
In Trestman’s first season, it was a different story.
Key players such as Henry Melton, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and DJ Williams got hurt, and what transpired was hard to envision, given the franchise’s history.
While the offence thrived, the defence could not stop anyone. Chicago ranked 30th overall and that barely tells the story.
The Bears tied the Jacksonville Jaguars with a league-low 31 sacks, and while they were not getting to the quarterback, they were not doing much to stop the run, either. They gave up 2,583 yards on the ground on 5.3 yards per carry – both club records.
But they believe the defence will look more like the Monsters of the Midway of old than the one that was just scary bad. The Bears have star power with Allen up front, Briggs at linebacker and Tillman and Tim Jennings at cornerback, even if there are some concerns.
Safety remains one. There are questions at linebacker, too. But there is a different look, and with that, a belief that the Bears are poised for bigger things.
“I think they understand what last year was,” Allen said. “They understand the injuries and stuff like that. They know every year rests on its own. I think everybody’s just kind of growing together.
“They’re excited to get out there and play ball. I think everybody sees the ability and what we have on paper. But that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. You’ve got to go out and you’ve got to make it happen. So we’re excited for it.”
Allen comes in with seven straight double-digit sack seasons and is showing few signs of slowing down. The Bears signed him to a four-year guaranteed deal worth US$15.5 million (Dh96.6m).
“They do some things similar – how they approach practice,” defensive tackle Stephen Paea said. “That’s how you know these guys are for real.”
Allen is more vocal than most.
“I’m going to encourage a guy, I’m going to help young guys out if they want it,” Allen said. “But the way I’m going to lead is, I’m going to show up to work and I’m going to put my best on the field and I’m going to expect the guy next to me to be his best.”