A bold statement to start.
If Jared Allen has a great year, great meaning relentless pressure week-to-week and somewhere around fifteen sacks, the Chicago Bears defense can be the NFL’s most surprising side of the ball and one of the league’s better units. That’s how important an elite edge rusher can be in the modern game.
Since Richard Dent walked away (and finally into the Hall of Fame) the Bears have never had the 4-3 pass rushing threat Allen is capable of being. Think of the names. Alonzo Spellman. Philip Daniels. Bryan Robinson. Alex Brown. Adewale Ogunleye. Israel Idonije. Good players, all of them. But nobody is confusing them with Derrick Thomas. And while the Julius Peppers signing would be deemed an overall success, his failure to ever be a consistent, dominant pass rusher manifested itself in failing to eclipse the 11.5 sack mark in any season in Chicago. Allen has only had less than 11.5 sacks once since 2007.
Sacks are not the only measure of a pass rusher. But they sure help.
Allen has another task before him in 2014. As Lance Briggs has continued his checked out approach to the Bears organization in the nineteen months since the firing of Lovie Smith, a gaping leadership hole has opened on the defensive side of the ball. There are various new faces to fill that hole but none comes with the pedigree and resume of Allen – one of the best defenders in the sport for a decade. Allen has a limited shelf life in the league, sure, but he’s a real opportunity to win a championship in the next two years with this group in Chicago. He must instill both his professionalism and desperate intensity into the defensive huddle.
Side note on Briggs: I don’t care much that he missed Monday’s practice to be at his restaurant’s opening. But I do wonder why a player would put himself in such a precarious media position. If the restaurant opens a week earlier, nobody cares. Why would you not adjust your schedule around the opening week of the NFL season? I’ll tell you why. You don’t care that much.
This could be Allen’s time in Chicago, his time to scale the NFL’s championship mountain. An elite pass rusher can compensate for strong side linebackers in coverage and weak safety play. An elite pass rusher can cause turnovers, flips scoreboards, win games. An elite pass rusher can put good teams into the playoffs and playoff teams into the Super Bowl.
In that regard an argument could be made Allen is not only the most important defensive player on these 2014 Bears but the most important player on the entire roster.