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Bears’ revamped defensive line looking good so far

Updated: August 12, 2014 1:37PM



BOURBONNAIS — Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff is looking forward to having defensive end Jared Allen next to him Thursday after Allen took the Bears’ preseason opener off Friday following the birth of his second daughter.

‘‘Yeah, it’ll be good to have him out there; he kind of [hung] me out to dry last week,’’ Ratliff said with a laugh. ‘‘No, I understand the situation. Congrats to him and his
family. It’ll be good to have him back out there.’’

As for Allen, he practiced for the second consecutive day Monday. Afterward, he was asked about teammate Willie Young’s interception at the line of scrimmage
during practice.

‘‘That’s how you turn being blocked into a good play,’’ Allen said. ‘‘Good for Willie.’’

In case it doesn’t show, the Bears’ defensive line is feeling pretty good about itself already, a pretty good sign for a group that was pieced
together during the offseason. Ratliff never has played with Allen. Allen never has played with Young. But they’re quickly getting comfortable with each other.

That cohesion, comfort and teamwork can be as important for a defensive line as it is for an offen-
sive line, but usually only if you have a lot of talent. You can build a quality offensive line without a Pro Bowl player if everybody works together. On defense, though, that kind of camaraderie generally
requires a lot more firepower.

And the Bears think they have it. Allen is a five-time Pro Bowl end with 1281/2 sacks. Ratliff is a four-time Pro Bowl tackle who is healthy again and hoping to regain his form after missing most of the last two seasons with a groin injury. If
Allen and Ratliff are good, the Bears think they have quality players who can produce in a complementary role — tackles Stephen Paea, Nate Collins, Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson and ends Young, Trevor Scott, Austin Lane and
David Bass among them.

At 32, Ratliff is three seasons
removed from his last Pro Bowl and a huge X-factor. The signs are positive: Ratliff was solid in a five-game stint at the end of last season and has been impressive in the early going this season.

‘‘I feel healthier; that’s a huge part of it,’’ Ratliff said. ‘‘Last year I came in late and had to learn on the fly and get back in rhythm. My first time in pads was in a game. Now I feel a lot more comfortable. I feel like I have my legs up under me. I feel better about this year.’’

After a contentious departure from the Dallas Cowboys, Ratliff said he is motivated to be the Pro Bowl player he once was.

‘‘That’s definitely a goal of mine, absolutely,’’ he said. ‘‘After sitting out for [almost] two years, it’s time to get back in it.’’

With Allen, Ratliff and Lamarr Houston, the competition upgrade general manager Phil Emery was looking for appears to be playing out.

‘‘It’s very, very competitive,’’ Ratliff said. ‘‘With the talent we have, you don’t want to be the last guy, the weakest link. That mentality is going to help everyone play at a high level.’’

Again, the early signs have been positive.

‘‘Guys really understand where a certain guy is going to be,’’
Allen said. ‘‘It just takes reps, but it’s huge. You can see that camaraderie [on] most of the team. I think we’re well [ahead] of where we need to be.’’

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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