Allen Ready for the Competition

Not many running backs that started 15 games and rushed for over 1000 yards last season have to look over their shoulder to see whose in camp with a shot at their job. However, James Allen finds himself in such a situation.

The 26-year-old Allen was able to become a fixture in the Bears offense last year with career highs in virtually every category.

 The former Oklahoma Sooner will have plenty of competition with the off-season additions of Anthony Thomas and Skip Hicks, but Allen said he is ready for the challenge.

 "I'm not afraid of competition and I think it's going to produce the best in me," Allen said. Allen also understands the position of his competition in Thomas and Hicks. "When I came I was one of the guys pushing for the number one spot, so I know the mentality of what that's like. Now, I've got the edge because I know what's its like coming in at the bottom. I have an edge in terms of this being something I've earned and worked for."

 Allen is going into his fourth year with the Bears and is emerging as a team leader. "I see my role this years as having more veteran responsibility, in a sense of getting things done. Coming in, keeping my job and picking up from where I left off last year," Allen said.

He is excited about the possibilities of John Schoop's new offensive scheme including using some two-back sets. "I think the new offense will keep us more balanced because last year we had to use whoever we could (at fullback) as far as tightends and such." The signing of free agent fullback Damion Shelton will add some much-needed depth to the position.

Allen believes the offense should improve with a more balanced attack than in the past. The running game often suffered in Gary Crowton's pass oriented offense. Allen was able to become the Bears starting tailback in game two last year and he doesn't plan on giving the position up anytime soon. "I'm going to be the starting tailback for the Chicago Bears, I'm going to be the guy who comes in and picks up on the running game from last year."

Despite Allen's confidence he still imagines himself as the underdog. "It keeps me humble to think that way. You still have to be confident, it's balancing between the two that's important," he said. "Last year was a stepping ground for me, as to where I can see myself getting a lot better and I want to pickup from that. You can never be satisfied with what you've done in the past. You can learn from that, but not rest on it." He has taken a variety of measures to ensure he has the upper hand over his competition. "I've worked on things this off-season that I never have before. I focused on my core (abdominal muscles), flexibility and durability."

 Allen knows that some doubt his breakaway running capability; to a degree so did he. "I want be on ESPN busting a 50, 60, or 70 yard run. My longest run was like 20 or 30 yards and I wondered why. So, I went back and watched a lot of film. I saw things that will help us take the ball down the field." However, Allen said any long run requires a team effort.

 "We need to get the blocks downfield, I'm going to have make people miss as well as break a few tackles."

Allen's observations made him ponder a day when he can sit back be among the elite running backs in the NFL. "It's going to be so lovely when I can be at the top on a consistent basis. Then, I'll wait for the next thing I have to prove I can do." For now, Allen will have to show Dick Jauron and John Schoop that he's ready to be the Bears starting running back. The competition begins July 20, in Platteville.

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