The Chicago Bears defense that has been better under Vic Fangio than it was under Mel Tucker needs to take the next step.
And for the Bears to do that, success at the point of attack – in the trenches – is where it all begins.
Over at The Athletic, a recent installment of Dan Durkin’s On The Clock series analyzed what kind of fit Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen would be if the Bears chose him with the third overall pick in April’s NFL Draft.
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Durkin sees the Crimson Tide standout as a top-5 pick because of the combination of skill, football IQ, size, strength and speed he possesses allows you to dream on a projection of a player capable of transcending game planning down the line.
Among the things missing from the Bears defense is the kind of player teams need to plan to stop and you don’t have to squint to see how Allen could become that player down the line.
Further, Allen’s presence on the defensive line would bolster a group that needs it. Mitch Unrein played 436 snaps (the second most among Bears defensive linemen) in 13 games in 2016 and produced a 51.8 grade according to Pro Football Focus, which was the lowest defensive line grade on the Bears and ranked 62nd at his position.
How does a three-man front of Allen, Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman sound to you?
A quick glance suggests it would be an improvement from what was there in 2016. Hicks (83.1) was the highest graded player on the Bears defensive line last season, and Goldman would have likely been up there with him had he not suffered a season-ending injury. Prior to injury, Goldman (who owned a 78.3 grade as a rookie in 2015) posted an 80.0 grade in 197 snaps in 2016.
Strong defensive line play could turn out to be the thing that helps free up linebackers to, in turn, help give the secondary a fighting chance in coverage.
There are obvious benefits of choosing high in the draft, but it also comes with risk because of the bust rate for any prospect. But Allen is the kind of high-floor, high-ceiling player that seems to be a perfect fit for a team hoping to minimize risk and dream on talent and potential.