And now for a cold splash of perspective, one which I strongly suspect Bears general manager Phil Emery understands from painful experience:
Jared Allen or no Jared Allen, the Bears’ projected defensive line going into 2014 is arguably not as good as the one positioned to take the opening opponent’s snap in 2013.
The point is not a judgment on whether Allen is an upgrade over Julius Peppers or Lamarr Houston or Willie Young are steps up from Corey Wootton.
But here’s the biggest point that is being missed in some of the fawning over the Allen signing in particular. And it comes from a veteran Bear with first-hand knowledge of these situations:
“You don’t know anything right now,” linebacker Lance Briggs said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s Pat Boyle. “On paper we’re moving in that right direction. We’re certainly moving in that right direction.
“We still have a draft where there are still things we have to shore up, and we have to get on that field and create the type of unity, the type of motivation within each other, the trust in each other that we’re going to need going into the season.”
The 2014 starting defensive line, with either Houston or Young penciled in as the starting end opposite Allen, is obviously and exponentially better than the defensive front that finished the season or was lining up for opening snaps even halfway through the season. This is not news.
But a year ago the Bears were coming off a 2012 season in which they ranked fifth in yardage and third in points allowed. This year they are ... well, not.
But the job of Emery is far from done, and what lies ahead might in fact be the area that is more important than all these signings and one at which he is best at: the draft.
In two drafts he has produced two Pro Bowl representatives, albeit both on offense (Alshon Jeffery, Kyle Long). His defensive picks are still in their molten states, with Jonathan Bostic, Khaseem Greene and Shea McClellin representing one of the great unknowns going into the off-, pre- and regular seasons.
But just for sake of comparison, using just sacks and general balance as the loose criteria, consider:
RE: Jared Allen, 11.5 sacks
DT: Jeremiah Ratliff, 1.5 sack, five games played
NT: Stephen Paea, missed three games, lingering toe injury
LE: Willie Young, three sacks on a Detroit defensive line with three No. 1 draft picks
Rotation: David Bass, Lamarr Houston, Israel Idonije
RE: Julius Peppers, 11.5 sacks, dominant vs. run or pass
DT: Henry Melton, six sacks, Pro Bowl
NT: Stephen Paea, career-highs for starts, games, sacks, tackles
LE: Corey Wootton, seven sacks
Rotation keys: Nate Collins, Sedrick Ellis, Turk McBride
The Bears’ 2013 front four was done in by injuries to Melton, Collins and McBride, plus the unexpected retirement of Ellis. That on top of losing Briggs, Charles Tillman and D.J. Williams is what happened to the 2013 season. But many of the superlatives being lavished (rightly) on the Allen signing were echoes of the same rejoicings of when Peppers came along.
As Briggs says, right now it’s just on paper.