Around the Horns: Matt Kalil, Jared Allen prepare to face off

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Jared Allen and Matt Kalil spent two years lining up across from each other, at the intersection of two careers going in opposite directions. Kalil, the fourth pick in the 2012 draft, made the Pro Bowl as a rookie the same season that Allen registered his final Pro Bowl appearance for the Vikings, before the left tackle's knee injury and the defensive end's age made 2013 a trying season for both of them.

Now, as the two prepare to line up against each other in a game for the first time, both have something to prove. Kalil's third season began in disappointing fashion, which he attributed on Wednesday to a lack of trust in his knee that led to him not getting deep enough in his pass sets. Allen, meanwhile, has just 1 1/2 sacks in eight games with the Bears after signing a four-year, $32 million deal this offseason, and is just now getting back to normal playing shape after pneumonia caused his weight to drop to 239 pounds -- the least he's weighed since high school, Allen said.

But both men professed respect for each other on Wednesday, with one offering a defense of sorts for the other in the face of their individual critics.

"From what I've seen so far, I think he's firing off well in the run game. He's been beat a few times in the pass game, but who doesn't get beat a few times?" Allen said. "He's a good player. He still has good feet. He still has good technique. We're going to have to take advantages of situations, because he knows me, I know him and we're going to have to see who's better that day."

Kalil showed some improvement in the Vikings' final two games before the bye, though he allowed the Redskins' Trent Murphy to collect his first career sack on Nov. 2. He said he's feeling more confident in his knee now, and added he hasn't been checking his Twitter account since August, which likely helped inoculate him from some of the vitriol tossed his way.

As he faces Allen -- whom Kalil credited for helping to break him into the league -- the tackle doesn't expect an easy matchup.

"I've gone against him in camp, which is probably the hardest I've gone against him," Kalil said. "People say he only has 1.5 sacks, but there were probably 8 or 9 plays where he was just a hand away. So, I don't think he's really lost a step at all. I've heard people saying that. But he still has a knack for the ball, a knack for making plays."

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