New Bears defensive end Jared Allen started every game the past six years for Minnesota. Chicago coach Marc Trestman praised his durability and dependability.
“Certainly, those are big to consistently playing at a high level,” Trestman told the Chicago Sun-Times. “He has all the trademarks. And of course, his love of the game. When you watch him play, you’re saying to yourself, ‘This man loves playing football,’ and he’s been doing it for a very long time at a high level. Our personnel people and our coaches all feel that’s he’s got a lot left, and we believe we’re getting him at a great time.”
Allen turns 32 next week. He has 128.5 sacks in his 10-year career.
The hardest thing for rookie safety Brock Vereen to overcome when he stepped into the huddle with the Bears’ No. 1 defense wasn’t the awe of being in a huddle with Jared Allen, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and others. It wasn’t even mastering the assignments.
It was telling people about it.
“If there’s anything the coaches are hardest on me about, it’s communication,” Vereen said. “That’s a key.” And what exactly do they want to hear from Vereen, particularly since rookies generally should be seen and not heard?
“Anything,” Vereen said, laughing. “The biggest thing they’re drilling into my head is that even if you don’t know what to say, just say something. It’s definitely a difference but if it makes the defense better, that’s what I’ve got to do.
Vereen must be saying mostly correct things, judging from his current billet. To put Vereen in just a bit of context:
Highly regarded safeties Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix from Alabama and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor were still undrafted when the Bears opted instead for cornerback Kyle Fuller with the No. 14 pick of the first round last May. Right now – which is utterly meaningless, of course – everybody is looking good.
The Packers were right on Clinton-Dix, the Jets on Pryor and the Bears on Fuller: All three are starting exactly where their teams projected them at this point, the safeties starting and Fuller the Bears’ nickel corner and playing well enough to allow the Bears to slide Tim Jennings inside on nickel and match Fuller up opposite Charles Tillman on the outside receivers.
Those successes could reasonably be expected. What has been perhaps the most pleasant surprise through the offseason was what the Bears did to address safety, trading up 35 spots from the fifth round into Denver’s in the fourth round and selecting Vereen from Minnesota.
Vereen has virtually established himself as the player to beat out for the No. 1 free safety position, situated alongside veteran free agent Ryan Mundy. Vereen is in the starting slot that had appeared finally secure in the person of Chris Conte the past two-plus years. Now Conte has perhaps his toughest competition since coming into the NFL via the third round of the 2011 draft, coming back from offseason surgery and needing to overtake an ascending Vereen.