The failures of the Chicago Bears defense in 2013 are well documented. There was blame to go around but it's hard to deny the impact of numerous injuries to key players.
In 2013, Henry Melton, Lance Briggs, D.J. Williams, Charles Tillman, Nate Collins and Kelvin Hayden all missed significant portions of the year due to injury, while Corey Wootton had hip surgery a few days after the season finale. As a result, the defense finished 30th overall and 32nd against the run.
GM Phil Emery has made a concerted effort this offseason to make sure injuries don't once again ravage the defense and waste an otherwise promising campaign.
The Bears today signed Jared Allen. Besides the fact he's the NFL's sack leader since 2004 and that his 11.5 sacks last season in a "down" year would have led the Bears in each season since 2006, Allen is also extremely durable. In 10 NFL campaigns, Allen has missed a combined three games due to injury. The last game he was forced to sit out came more than six full seasons ago in 2007.
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Also at defensive end, Emery inked Lamarr Houston and Willie Young. Houston has never missed a game during his four years in the NFL, while Young has missed just two games the past three seasons. Additionally, Israel Idonije has played in all but two games since 2007.
The collective sturdiness of Chicago's new defenders is not a coincidence. In free agency, Emery obviously put as much stock in a player's ability to stay healthy as he did their production on the field. Based on that criteria, it's no surprise Emery chose not to re-sign Melton or Wootton.
So if the defense falls apart next year, it will be due to the things Emery can control – the talent level of the players he signed – and not injuries, which are completely out of his hands.
This durability priority will likely carry over to the draft as well. Knowing how injuries can decimate a defense, it's unlikely Emery will invest an early round pick in a player with a significant history of injury. That could eliminate a player like Florida DT Dominique Easley, a potential second rounder who tore the ACL in both of his knees during his collegiate career.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.