General manager Phil Emery made it a point to improve his defensive line this offseason, and should the unit improve dramatically in 2014, the addition of Jared Allen may end up being why.
Allen has been one of the league's most consistent pass-rushers for the past decade. Since 2007 he has registered 101 sacks and has not had a season with fewer than 11 sacks since 2006.
Allen will be one of the team's starters at defensive end this season, and fans should expect his productivity to continue at the same level it did while he was in Kansas City and Minnesota.
The Bears made a big splash on the first day of free agency when they added veteran Lamarr Houston.
Despite registering only 16 sacks in four seasons with the Oakland Raiders, Houston has the ability to create pressure in the passing game and is a solid contributor against the run.
Playing alongside Allen should allow Houston more opportunities to get after the quarterback this season, and his versatility to play both defensive end and tackle should give the Bears plenty of options up front this season.
Not long after inking a deal with Lamarr Houston, the Bears signed former Detroit Lions defensive end Willie Young to a three-year deal.
After the signing of Young, many pegged him to start opposite Houston at defensive end, but the addition of Jared Allen means Young will probably be a key rotation player at the position.
Despite dropping down the depth chart, Young has been appreciative of what he's been learning from Allen this offseason.
“He’s like a coach sometimes because he has so much to offer,” Young said of Allen to Kevin Fishbain of ChicagoFootball.com. “I find myself afterwards writing a lot of it down so I can retain it a little better.”
Despite not having a defined role yet, Young says he is going to make the most of his opportunities:
I’m the type of guy, it doesn’t matter what scheme you put me in, I’m going to make the best of my opportunities. Before I got to Detroit a couple years ago, I wasn’t used to getting off read and react so fast, but I was able to adapt and overcome and make a living for myself doing it. Same thing applies here. A new beginning, adapt and overcome and the rest of it will take care of itself.
While he will likely end up being the team's No. 3 defensive end, Young will likely still play a major role in the team's defense this season.
One of the more underrated players in the league during his nine-year tenure in Chicago, Israel Idonije had one of his best seasons in 2012, racking up 7.5 sacks to go along with a forced fumble and 29 tackles.
Idonije moved on to the Detroit Lions in 2013 but struggled to get much playing time and finished with just a half sack.
The Bears brought him back this offseason on a one-year deal. He has the versatility to play both inside and outside, having seen time at both end and tackle.
While it seemed like he would stand a good shot of making the roster in 2014 prior to the draft, the additions of rookies Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton, combined with the additions of Allen, Houston and Young, will likely make it very difficult for Idonije to stick with the team.
Phil Emery thought a little outside of the box when he selected Ego Ferguson with the 51st overall pick in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft this past May.
He has the potential to develop into a solid player in the future, but it was believed that he would have been available later in the draft.
During his three-year career, Ferguson played in 38 games and registered 85 tackles, five tackles for loss, one sack, three quarterback pressures and five pass deflections.
According to Ferguson in his teleconference with the media after the draft, defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni wants him to play the 2-technique defensive tackle position. "I feel like I can get after the quarterback," Ferguson said.
Lining Ferguson up as the 2-technique, which is directly over the guard, will allow him to utilize his strength as well as his quickness.
He could see time at both the nose tackle and 2-technique and should see extensive playing time in his rookie season.
Some may argue that Emery reached for Ferguson in the second round, but many would agree that he got tremendous value with Will Sutton in the third round.
In 2012, Sutton registered 63 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, five pass deflections and three forced fumbles, but his weight jumped from 290 pounds to over 300 pounds in 2013. He was still productive in 2013, registering 48 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and three pass deflections, but he clearly did not have the same type of impact as he did when he played around 290 pounds.
His weight was concern enough for many teams to pass on him, but he has the ability to develop into an impact type player for the Bears at the 3-technique position.