With Bushrod, Bears seem better-equipped to keep Jared Allen away from Jay Cutler
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter September 12, 2013 9:02PM
11-14-2010---Chicago Bears host the Minnesota Vikings---Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) is chased by Viking end Jared Allen as he looks for a receiver. Sun-Times photo by Tom Cruze
Updated: October 15, 2013 7:19AM
For as much trouble as Jared Allen has caused the Bears since joining the Vikings, the five-time Pro Bowl defensive end was relatively quiet against them last season.
In two games against the Bears with J’Marcus Webb at left tackle, Allen had no sacks, two quarterback hurries, a pass breakup and seven tackles. Allen did more damage by happenstance — a blindside hit on guard Lance Louis during an interception return in which Louis suffered a torn ACL in his left knee that ended his season and perhaps his career.
With Louis gone, the Bears have revamped their offensive line and appear even better-equipped to handle Allen. Instead of Webb, Allen will be facing two-time Pro Bowler Jermon Bushrod at left tackle, with veteran Matt Slauson beside him. Somewhere along the line, he’ll likely meet rookie guard Kyle Long.
‘‘Just from watching the film already, they’ve upgraded in some positions,’’ Allen said. ‘‘Bushrod is definitely a good addition. It’s hard to tell with the [rookies] after one game. But I think the biggest thing is they’re still doing a lot of max protection. You still see a lot of tight ends staying in, a lot of play-action routes off max-protect looks. That makes it difficult when you’re rushing four, and they’re blocking seven.’’
Bushrod played well against Allen in two games against him with the Saints — no sacks, two quarterback hurries and six tackles. But the Saints’ offense played as big a part in neutralizing Allen — Drew Brees getting rid of the ball, a fullback chip here and there and some effective screen passes. That’s the formula the Bears hope to use.
But the Bears like having a better foundation with Bushrod. Before last season, Allen had 13 sacks in eight games against the Bears — including 31/2 against Webb and Co. in 2011, when the Bears and Josh McCown won 17-13 at the Metrodome.
‘‘I’ve got all the confidence in [Bushrod] to block him one-on-one,’’ quarterback Jay Cutler said. ‘‘We’re going to throw some different looks at him. I don’t care how good you are on the offensive line, if you just go one-on-one [all the time], and you take big drops, at some point he’s going to get you. So we’re going to help [Bushrod] out from time to time. But [I have] a lot of confidence in Bushrod being able to block him.’’
‘‘[Allen’s] a tough competitor,’’ Bushrod said. ‘‘It’s no letdown every play. He’s going hard to the ball every single play, so I’ve got to be striking on all cylinders to get it done this week.’’
As offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer noted, the Vikings have other threats on their defensive line. Kevin Williams, a six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, is expected to play Sunday after missing the opener against the Lions with a knee injury. Veteran end Brian Robison had 8 1/2 sacks last season.
But this time, there might be more pressure on Allen than there is on Cutler.
‘‘With Jay, you’ve got to pressure him constantly,’’ Allen said. ‘‘You’ve got to be around him. You’ve got to hit him. If he can sit back and set his feet, he’s deadly. When he gets outside the pocket and does things on his terms, he’s very dangerous.’’