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Bears defensive line revved up to rush

Updated: August 6, 2014 10:52PM



BOURBONNAIS — Finally, the Bears have the horsepower to run the NASCAR package.

Driving the defensive line’s engine are three newcomers — Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young — who combine with tackle Jeremiah Ratliff to provide the Bears’ most potent pass rush.

The NASCAR package — a leaguewide nickname for a speed rush unit — features three Bears defensive ends on the field at the same time, typically on obvious passing downs.

Young and Allen man the ends, while Houston, who has played end and tackle in college and the pros, replaces Stephen Paea on the inside.

The concept is nothing new in a pass-happy league.

“When we have a pass-rush group of guys on the field, that is normal for the NFL,” defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. “So that’s pretty much almost standard procedure.”

It wasn’t to the Bears, though, after suffering through injuries, inefficiency and inexperience last season.

They moved end Corey Wootton inside last year, but he wound up staying there permanently in place of injured tackles.

Tucker wouldn’t bite when asked if the Bears had the talent to run the NASCAR package last year — but it’s clear they did not.

“Every year you have a different group,” Tucker said. “At the end of the day, the question will be, ‘Did we have the guys this year?’ And we won’t know that until the end.”

Houston, who played 40 or 50 snaps at tackle for the Raiders last year, will be the lynchpin.

“We’re just trying to get the best guys on the field we can to rush,” said Houston, signed to a five-year, $35 million contract in the offseason. “Me and Willie, we just want to do whatever we can to help the team win and to help the team progress.

“If we need to move inside, switch me to the outside, we don’t really care what it is. We just want to rush.”

Young agreed, saying the Bears “control our own destiny” by loading the front line and giving their rushers space to work in a one-on-one situation.

“We’re a group of guys that fly around to the ball,” said Young, who had three sacks in 15 games last year with the Lions. “Looking to disrupt every play that every offense tries to throw at us and keep it moving.”

The Bears could play Young — and assorted backup ends — at tackle, too, said defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni.

“Now, [Houston] is a bigger, very much athletic guy,” Pasqualoni said. “He gives you more quickness. He gives you a burst in the rush and does a good job with all those things.”

Bears offensive lineman Brian de la Puente said it was “unique for a guard to see that kind of speed.” Guard/tackle Michael Ola was more blunt.

“I’ve seen guys that are quick, that are fast,” he said. “There’s a new breed of guys that have it all. If you don’t come correct, you’re landing on your butt.”

Ola catches himself in awe watching Houston during film sessions.

“He’s literally like [Allen] Iverson, And-1 [mix tape] pass-rush moves,” he said. “Then when you try to worry about the speed, he hits you with the bull rush. It’s, ‘Oh, so you’re strong too now?’ It’s phenomenal seeing him.”

Everyone in camp is excited to see the Bears rev up their ­NASCAR package.

“I can’t wait to see it,” tackle Jordan Mills said. “When they do it in the game.”

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley



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