NFC Notes: Bears, 49ers, Saints, Falcons

New Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio believes 33-year-old Jared Allen, who’s shifting from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker, could be in line for a career renaissance.

“Like I told him, I think he can have a rebirth to his career here playing a little bit of a new position,” said Fangio, according to Jeff Dickerson of “But in the NFL today, you play more nickel than you actually play base. For some teams they play nickel 65 to 75 percent of the time. He’ll be playing his normal position then. So it’s not as drastic of a change as you might think.”

More production from Allen would be a welcome sight for Chicago, which had the third-worst defense in the NFL in 2014. Allen finished with just 5.5 sacks, the lowest total of an 11-year career that has seen him take down opposing quarterbacks 134 times.

Fangio is similarly hopeful about one of Allen’s fellow linebackers, Shea McClellin, adjusting well to his defense. McClellin, a 2012 first-round pick, has a meager 7.5 sacks during his first three seasons. Those years were spent shifting between defensive end and outside linebacker in the Bears’ previous 4-3 scheme. The 25-year-old will move to the inside of the linebacking corps as part of Fangio’s 3-4.

“I think he has a chance to be a good inside linebacker,” said Fangio. “We’re going to give him a full opportunity here and a full chance to learn the position so we can evaluate him and see if that’s a good spot for him.”

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • The 49ers’ defense lost multiple key elements during a chaotic offseason. Star linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland both retired, while defensive lineman Justin Smith is contemplating joining them. One important returning face is linebacker Aldon Smith, who’s ready to become the leader of their defense in a contract year. “It’s a role I’m comfortable with,” Smith said, according to “Obviously, losing guys who were here … someone steps up. And it’s something I have no problem doing.” Smith has a whopping 44 sacks in 50 regular-season games, but the four-year veteran’s career has been beset by off-field issues.
  • The Saints are expected to feel the loss of elite tight end Jimmy Graham, whom they traded to the Seahawks earlier this offseason, but Mike Triplett of notes that the team’s offense might not drop off as drastically as some think. The Saints have fielded a top six offense every year during the Sean PaytonDrew Brees era, leading the league three times in yardage before Graham even got to New Orleans. In terms of weaponry, Triplett believes the additions of running back C.J. Spiller and wide receiver Brandin Cooks could help make up for the loss of Graham.
  • Falcons superstar wide receiver Julio Jones is in line for a big contract extension, but there hasn’t been much progress on getting a new deal done. General manager Thomas Dimitroff didn’t provide an update on Jones’ situation on Saturday, per Vaughn McClure of ESPN (via Twitter).
  • Randy Gregory, the Cowboys’ newly drafted pass rusher, is off to a good start at the team’s rookie camp. The second-round pick looked like more than just a speed rusher Saturday, showing off an array of moves and netting a would-be sack, writes Todd Archer of

Rob DiRe contributed to this post. 

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