CHICAGO (AP) - Jared Allen can see it all coming together for the Chicago Bears and their defense.
Now, all he needs to do is get on the field.
The five-time Pro Bowl defensive end anticipates suiting up for the first time with the Bears when they host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday.
Chicago’s prized free agent acquisition, Allen sat out last week’s preseason opener against Philadelphia after missing practices because his wife gave birth to a girl.
Assuming he plays this week, it will provide the first glimpse at a rebuilt defense that the Bears are counting on to make a playoff run functions with its new star.
“I think we’re well where we need to be, past where we need to be,” Allen said. “I think guys really understand where certain guys are going to be, how we’re going to react to certain things. From that standpoint, it just takes reps. But it’s huge. And you can see that.”
The Bears made a bunch of big moves after their defense struggled last season on the way to an 8-8 record, none bigger than signing Allen away from Minnesota.
With him now anchoring the line, Chicago believes it is poised for a run at the playoffs after missing out for the sixth time in seven years.
All 11 starters are back on an offense that ranked among the NFL’s most prolific last season, the first under coach Marc Trestman.
If the Bears are going to make the playoffs, they’ll need more from their defense after it ranked among the worst in the league - and in franchise history - a year ago.
That starts up front. More to the point, it starts with Allen, who was back practicing this week.
He comes to Chicago with 128½ sacks and the task of not only igniting the dormant pass rush, but helping breathe life into the run defense.
More than anything, the Bears believe that a beefed-up line that features Allen as well as LaMarr Houston and Jeremiah Ratliff will ease the load on other areas of the defense, one that got bogged down by injuries and several misplays last season.
That group looked pretty good in last week’s win against Philadelphia even without Allen.
The Bears rattled Nick Foles in the early going, pressuring him and intercepting him twice.