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Chicago Bears 2014 Training Camp Preview

By John McMullen, NFL Editor

(SportsNetwork.com) -

REPORT DATE: July 24

SITE: Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, IL

CAMP CONFIDENTIAL: Bears general manager Phil Emery spent his offseason trying to upgrade a defense which collapsed in 2013, focusing largely on the front four.

Chicago bid adieu to veterans Julius Peppers, Henry Melton and Corey Wootton and used free agency to bolster the defensive end position, bringing in veteran pass-rushing star Jared Allen, along with Lamarr Houston and Willie Young. Emery then carpet-bombed defensive tackle in the draft with a pair of early selections, second-rounder Ego Ferguson and third-rounder Will Sutton.

All of that might end up being like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, though, because the back seven is aging and still has plenty of holes, particularly at safety.

Much like last season Chicago will go only as far as its high-powered offense can take it.

KEY OFFENSIVE ACQUISITION: Little tinkering was done here and rightfully so because the Bears were so explosive on offense last season. Compare Caleb Hanie's play with Chicago in 2010 to Josh McCown's in 2013, however, and you will quickly realize just how important the backup quarterback position in the NFL can be.

Jay Cutler has a history of getting dinged-up over the years so expecting the Bears' insurance policy to get a few key snaps at some point during the 2014 season is logical and current No. 2 quarterback Jordan Palmer doesn't spark confidence in many.

Ex-Carolina second-round pick Jimmy Clausen was signed 10 days before the start of minicamp and outperformed Palmer. The former Notre Dame star needs to do that again in training camp and show he can be a serviceable option.

"Jimmy's done a very good job," Bears coach Marc Trestman said at minicamp. "He's grinded at it. So we'll see. We'll take it one day at a time when we get to training camp."

KEY DEFENSIVE ACQUISITION: Allen might be the best pure pass rusher of this generation. He has reached double-digits in sacks for seven consecutive seasons and has never logged less than 7 1/2 in any year.

That said, Allen is 32 years old and rarely left the field in Minnesota so he's an old 32. In fact, Allen's desire to play every snap may be his biggest downfall because he would be best served to start dialing things back a bit at this stage of his career and cutting the repetitions.

A Jared Allen playing 70 percent of the snaps could have a bigger impact on the game than the tired player who often logged 95 percent-or-more with the Vikings.

"When you play against Jared, you have to make sure you have the proper protection plan," Trestman said earlier this offseason. "You're focused during the week on making sure that you're doing the best you can in preventing him from getting to the passer. That's what difference-makers do."

PRESEASON SCHEDULE (All Times Eastern):

Aug 8 - vs. Philadelphia, 8:00 PM Aug 14 - vs. Jacksonville, 8:00 PM Aug 22 - at Seattle, 10:00 PM Aug 28 - at Cleveland, 8:00 PM

07/17 12:14:24 ET

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