Jared Allen’s first season with the Chicago Bears was a disappointment but the veteran pass rusher is determined to prove he can still play in the NFL at a high level.
The Chicago Bears thought they were getting a consistent pass rushing force when they signed former Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen to a three-year deal last offseason, but what they got was a player who looked like he was on the last leg of his NFL career.
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Allen had 11.5 sacks in his last year with Minnesota and had 128.5 sacks in his first 10 seasons, including two years where he led the league in sacks and a career-high 22 in 2011, but he only sacked the quarterback 5.5 times in his first season with the Bears for a career-low.
At 32-years-old it was fair to question if Allen had anything left in the tank and could be the type of player he was in Minnesota and with the Kansas City Chiefs where he played the first four years of his career.
It would be easy to see a player whose age is increasing while his production is dropping at a drastic rate and think it is time for the Bears to cut him or for Allen to consider retirement, but Allen doesn’t want to go out that way and thinks he can still be an elite player.
“I can’t let last season be my lasting impression, the image of a guy who was hurt and sick and pissed off,” he told The Chicago Tribune. “That’s not me. … This is not about making the best of a bad situation. It’s about being the best again in an environment where I can be.”
Allen had a nasty case of pneumonia in the middle of last year that saw his weight drop and his strength sapped, so that is a valid excuse for a player who had his worst season of his career, but it also made for an unfavorable first impression for a team desperately lacking a pass rush.
With a new general manager in Ryan Pace and a new coaching staff with John Fox replacing the in-over-his-head Marc Trestman, Allen gets a second chance at making a favorable first impression in Chicago, but he’ll be doing it in a 3-4 defense.
Allen thrived in a 4-3 system where he put up sack numbers that could merit enshrinement in Canton, Ohio when he retires and inside the hallowed halls of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, so can an old dog learn a new trick and contribute in a new system?
At 6-6, 265-pounds, Allen does not fit the mold for a 3-4 defensive end and he’s not agile, athletic or quick enough to play outside linebacker so this leaves Allen as a player without a position as he tries to prove he can still hang in this league before retirement.
Everyone wants to go out on their own terms, but for every John Elway or Jerome Bettis who go out after a Super Bowl win, there are countless others who hang on too long and fade into obscurity.
Allen is closer to the latter category than the former, but he’ll have at least 16 more games to prove to himself, the Bears and the rest of the NFL that his demise was greatly exaggerated.
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