Chicago Bears: Five Most Important Defensive Backups

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Nov 27, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago Bears defensive end Jared Allen (69) pressures Detroit Lions quarterback

Matthew Stafford

(9) during the first quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Jared Allen, OLB/DE

How often do you get to refer to a 33-year-old, guaranteed Hall of Famer as a project? Welcome to your 2015 Chicago Bears!

A former sack king, Allen is making the switch to outside linebacker in Fangio’s new scheme, though he is expected to play his old position of defensive end when the team shifts to an occasional four-man front. While earlier in his career Allen was resistant to shifting to a role in a 3-4 defense, he’s now embracing the change, according to Jeff Dickerson at ESPN. That’s what you do when you’re no longer the focal point of the defense, I guess.

In all seriousness, though, Allen may be one of the biggest keys to the Bears defense in 2015. He looked his age last year, collecting only 5.5 sacks, his lowest in any season of his career, and disappearing for vast stretches in games. He’ll be shifting to a 3-4 outside linebacker, one of multiple defensive ends – Allen, Houston, Willie Young, David Bass – making the change in the new scheme.

Dec 15, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback

Drew Brees

(9) evades Chicago Bears defensive end Jared Allen (69) in the second half of their game at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, we’ve seen this work before, just not with the Bears. Remember Julius Peppers? Peppers looked catatonic at times with the Bears in 2013, and they cut ties with the veteran, who then traveled north to Green Bay, where he was revived playing outside linebacker. I don’t know if Allen can do the same thing – I don’t think he has Peppers’ athletic ability – but it can be done.

The Chicago Bears defense of 2015 is a unit in flux, but the one thing that the team can’t afford is a repeat of the 2014 pass rush, which was sub-par in a division dominated by a pair of passing giants in Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers. Allen is going through one of the biggest changes, learning not only a new scheme but a completely new position. While I expect him to be on the field most of the time when the Bears line up in a four-man front, he’ll be on the field at times playing outside linebacker.

That’s a big shift for a 10-year-plus veteran to make, but I think Allen can do it and contribute. He likely won’t start, so we’re talking fewer snaps and less contact for the 33-year-old, which should do him some good, preserving his body and energy for pass rushing situations.

Most importantly for the Bears defense, if Allen can make the change and contribute, it will mean teams will have to divide attention between he and Pernell McPhee, which should help both of them secure favorable match-ups while rushing the passer.

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