LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is optimistic that 33-year old Jared Allen can reinvent himself at outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
“He did well in the minicamp we had here, and I think he was excited about it,” Fangio said Saturday at rookie minicamp. “Like I told him, I think he can have a rebirth to his career here playing a little bit of a new position. But in the NFL today, you play more nickel than you actually play base. For some teams they play nickel 65 to 75 percent of the time. He’ll be playing his normal position then. So it’s not as drastic of a change as you might think.”
Season one of Allen’s four-year deal in Chicago did not go according to plan. Allen struggled to find a consistent pass-rush and finished with a career-lows in sacks (5.5) and tackles-for-loss (3.5).
The 11-year veteran now finds himself in a cluster of 4-3 defensive ends turned outside linebackers trying to secure a permanent role in Fangio’s defense.
“It's been good,” Fangio said. “Two of them [Lamarr Houston and Willie Young] aren't practicing so we haven't seen them at all, but I was pleased with the way the guys have come along and they've taken to the teaching that we've given them in the meetings and were able to bring it on to the field. I think we've got some good choices there and I think we'll come up with three, four or five good outside 'backers, however many we keep and we'll go from there. I think it's OK right now.”
Fangio stressed that the elements of being a successful outside linebacker don't differ much from defensive end, with the exception of occasionally dropping back into coverage.
“We expect a good pass rush from them, so that’s no different than being an end,” Fangio said. And they’ve got to be able to function in coverage a little bit. We’re not going to have them doing tough jobs in coverage. Some of them can be, and evolve to be, depending upon the play. They’ll be doing things they’re used to doing as an end, except they’re going to be doing it standing up and at the end of the line. It’s called a 3-4 defense, but in some ways you can call it a 5-2. We like bigger guys out there. I don’t foresee it being a major problem, although there’s a lot of learning and growing that has to take place.”