Emma: Allen Hopes To Key A Bears’ Turnaround On Defense
By Chris Emma-
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) — Practice was almost over Tuesday afternoon, and the Bears’ defense was getting the better of the offense. Jared Allen was pleased with his unit’s effort. Then, it happened.
The Bears’ high-octane offense began moving downfield, putting the pressure on a revamped defense. Jay Cutler was finding his talented targets, and everything began to click. For Allen, a longtime division rival, it was déjà vu.
“I had a flashback,” Allen said after Wednesday’s mini-camp workout. “I’ve seen this a thousand times before. I know what to expect from this offense. Because I’ve played against it, I know they put points up. It’s hard to defend (the Bears) offense, it really is. For me, it’s getting a defense to match that.”
Such a reason is why Allen was brought to Chicago. The Bears needed a boost on defense, that following the unit’s worst collective season in franchise history in 2013. Simply put, it couldn’t compete with the offense’s output consistently.
Allen’s personality is infectious within the team. He’s jovial in the locker room and businesslike on the field. And the returns on the defensive line are what have pleased coach Marc Trestman the most.
“He’s, number one, the consummate professional,” Trestman said of Allen. “As high motor as he is, as outgoing as he is, when he comes in, he’s all business. On the field, he’s all business. He works hard, doesn’t say much, runs to the ball and sets the tone for guys around him. We’re very lucky to have him.”
Added defensive coordinator Mel Tucker: “He’s a real pro, and when he practices, he practices at a high level. He’s good in the classroom and leads by example.”
With Allen, the Bears have added an essential piece to the defense —a physical pass rusher who can help reignite the defensive line. With that, the linebackers and secondary will benefit, too. The Bears can only hope the defense can match the offense.
“When you play defense with a good offense, it makes it fun,” Allen said. “We’re trying to get that mindset, that mentality.”
Bostic settling in while moving around
Before practice each day at Halas Hall, linebacker Jon Bostic is ready to expect the unexpected. The Bears are working to find stability on defense, and the linebacker group is the center of attention.
In his second year out of Florida, Bostic has worked in at all three linebacker roles. His attempts to settle in have been difficult as the constant movements continue.
“I’m doing whatever they ask me, whether it’s Mike, Sam, Will,” Bostic said. “I’m just going day by day with whatever they tell me to do.”
In his first year with the Bears, the learning curve proved to be too steep for Bostic. He was learning an entirely new playbook while adjusting to the speed of the NFL game. Far too often, he was out of place.
Now, Tucker has attempted to slow down the progressions for Bostic in practice, and he is pleased with the returns.
“Bostic is a lot more comfortable in what we’re asking him to do,” Tucker said. “He’s a lot more consistent, he plays fast, and he looks like he’s having fun. I don’t see a lot of frustration in what we’re asking him to do and why.”
While Bostic admitted he’s more comfortable in the middle, where he’s seen the most playing time, each position is coming more naturally. The growth from Year 1 to Year 2 in the NFL has seen tremendous change.
“A lot of stuff we were doing last year, it was unorthodox to me,” Bostic said. “I hadn’t really done it before. This year, I can react more and play how I’ve been taught.”
Kyle Long, Jordan Mills and Sherrick McManis were held out of practice Wednesday. Receiver Alshon Jeffery participated in everything but team drills. Will Sutton and Chris Conte remained away from the team due to family reasons.
Trestman kept many key starters limited in practice in order to get a look at the team’s depth.
“We’ve got such competition, we wanted to give some of the new guys more reps,” Trestman said.
— Practice was moved inside the Walter Payton Center due to heavy rain moving through Lake Forest.
— Trestman has taken the words from Bears greats such as Mike Ditka and Mike Singletary, hoping to implement a style of play to his team. “There’s a way to play football in Chicago — that’s being tough and physical,” Trestman said.
— Tucker is eager to see safety Conte on the field in training camp, putting behind the struggles of last season. “I told Chris I can’t wait to get him out there,” Tucker said. “He said he can’t wait to get out there. That’s where we’re at.” Conte is currently recovering from shoulder surgery.
— Cornerback Charles Tillman has been sharp in mini-camp, reaping in the reward of a productive offseason. “Charles, he loves football, he loves this team,” Tucker said. “He has a tremendous amount of pride. He’s worked really hard to get where he is today.”
— Rookie safety Brock Vereen has consistently seen reps with the first-team defense. “Brock has not looked out of place,” Trestman said. “He certainly has room to grow, but he’s very highly football intelligent.”
— With practice inside the domed roof, the Bears’ punters struggled with the low ceiling. Both Pat O’Donnell and Tress Way continued to have their boots disrupted. Said special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis, “I’m glad that it’s hitting the roof, let’s just say that.”
— Mini-camp wraps up Thursday for the Bears, then their short summer break begins. After that, the wait is on until the start of training camp in late July in Bourbonnais.
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.