The cliché concern about the Chicago Bears defense over the past couple of seasons was that it was old and fading. Never mind that it ranked fifth in yardage and third in points allowed in 2012 and ninth in yardage, fourth in points allowed in 2010.
So what does it say that four of the Bears’ biggest offseason signings and re-signings, on top of linebacker Lance Briggs, involve players 30-plus (Jared Allen 32, Tim Jennings 30, Jeremiah Ratliff 32, Charles Tillman 33)?
In the opinion of the latest old guy signed, this is a strength, not a liability.
“One of the reasons I’m excited is [Jeremiah] Ratliff,” Allen said. “I’ve gotten to know Jay over the years at the Pro Bowl. I’ve seen what he’s been able to do over the years in Dallas. And when he’s healthy, he’s an absolute beast in the middle.”
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The linchpins of the Bears’ defensive line, then, are two 32-year-old players, rushing quarterbacks to make life better for two 30-something cornerbacks.
Again, a strength, not a weakness, this from someone who has been a Minnesota Viking for the past six years and had to put his helmet back on anytime the Bears forced a turnover against Christian Ponder, Donovan McNabb or whomever.
“Briggs, obviously speaks for himself,” Allen said. “That dude is an absolute monster. Tillman, Jennings, I mean, I’ve watched these guys dismantle us when I’ve played them. Six years I’ve never won at Soldier Field. So I’m finally excited to win one in Soldier Field.”
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Excited is one thing. Being good enough is quite another, and the inevitable question for the defensive end who finished last season with 11.5 sacks was, what does he still have left at 32?
“To answer that question, just watch me play this year,” Allen said. “I mean, I’m in great shape. I’m a full year now off of surgery on my shoulder. So I mean workouts are going phenomenal. I’m excited. Like I said, I want to believe in what I’m playing for and who I’m playing for. And that’s why I’m here.”
Allen had at least a half sack in each of the Vikings’ last five games of 2013, 6.5 total over that span, even as the Vikings were simply playing out the string of a bad season.
“My play speaks for itself,” Allen said. “And the way I finished the year, I think spoke a lot clearer.”