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  • Seb Kennedy

Josh Allen Set To Dominate The Edge For Jacksonville In His Sophomore NFL Season

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

The defensive lineman has become all-the-more dominant in recent years; powerful prospects coming out of the college ranks such as JJ Watt, Nick Bosa, and Aaron Donald have terrorized tackles, guards, and centers for years. This has kept offensive coordinators up at night as they attempt to slow down these almost-unstoppable forces. As such, when the chance has arisen to take one of these sure-fire stalwarts in the first round, very few GMs have passed up the opportunity to select a player of this caliber. This was most recently illustrated by Kyle Smith’s and Ron Rivera’s pick of Chase Young second overall. And no one instance best exemplifies this sentiment than that of Jaguars pass rusher John Allen; when the Kentucky prospect—who recorded no fewer than 17 sacks in his senior season—fell to the franchise at number seven in the 2019 NFL Draft, Dave Caldwell made no mistake in making the call and ensuring Allen would be the long-term answer to Jacksonville at the position for at least the next four years. And after an absolutely stellar Pro Bowl rookie season—piling up 10.5 sacks on a defensive line including and therefore splitting snaps with veterans Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell—recent moves in the AFC South side’s front office point towards Allen impressing pundits further in 2020.

Allen hunts down Miami quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on his way to a 10.5-sack rookie season (Photo: Jacksonville Jaguars)

So why exactly does the outside linebacker look set to significantly improve in his sophomore season?

Well, most prominently, only so many talented players in the front seven (and particularly the defensive line itself) can be on the field at any one time for reasons of prioritizing players’ health and limiting injury risk—in layman’s terms, there are only “so many sacks to go around.” Take the 2019 San Francisco 49ers: No one member of Robert Salah’s unit topped 10 sacks—Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, and Dee Ford recorded 10, 9, 7.5 and 6.5 sacks respectively. And while the defense undeniably represents one of the most dominant in the last decade, especially up front, the multifaceted threat that these four linemen posed to opposing offensive coordinators meant that individually, these players’ sack and tackle totals suffered—as did their fantasy owners’. Viewing this issue through a Jacksonville lens, the trade of Calais Campbell to Baltimore and the seemingly-imminent departure of Yannick Ngakoue being nothing more than a matter of time at this stage makes Allen an incredibly-attractive outside candidate for Defensive Player of the Year going into the 2020 season. Not only due to having “a bigger piece of the pie” that is team sacks now Campbell and Ngakoue have left, but also because the number seven overall pick is a year wiser, more familiar with the pro level and possesses a full season of NFL experience. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Allen recorded 1.5 sacks more than the more-highly touted defensive end in Nick Bosa despite starting 10 fewer games—ending the season as the rookie sack leader—and became the most statistically-dominant rookie pass rusher in franchise history. Expect this trend to continue in the coming season.

Established veteran Calais Campbell was a key reason for the young defensive end's rookie season success (Douglas DeFelice/USA TODAY Sports)

Additionally, the team’s front office moves during the current offseason complement this sentiment nicely: Caldwell’s decision to add eight defensive backs including the consensus second-best cornerback in the 2020 NFL Draft in C. J. Henderson provides Todd Wash some much-needed quality at the position following Jalen Ramsey’s and A. J. Bouye’s departures, and this depth—through providing tight coverage on opposing receivers—allows Allen more time to beat tackles and get in the face of the quarterback. Furthermore, the Jaguars lost a true defensive leader when Campbell was moved on to the Ravens but this alluring presence was quickly replaced in the form of Joe Schobert who signed for the team just 27 days later—the new voice of the locker room had arrived and has no doubt already been contacting Allen, providing the youngster both continued guidance and support that Campbell had throughout the course of last season. And while Schobert naturally replaces Campbell as Allen’s “mentor” in 2020, the Kentucky defensive end will soon find himself adopting this very same role towards this year’s first-round pick, K’Lavon Chaisson. The LSU linebacker put up incredibly similar statistics to Allen in both players’ respective sophomore college seasons and will look to Allen for guidance regarding how the Wash system operates upfront which allowed him to succeed tremendously in 2019. So not only is Allen set to thrive this upcoming season due to his conspicuous talent—in addition to his professionalism away from the field—but Caldwell’s approach to essentially rebuilding the defense over the last nine months in a way that best supports his star pass rusher all but confirms the franchise’s commitment to maximizing his ability going forward.

The pass-rushing pair developed a close bond during their time in Florida together, as shown here when Campbell announced his inclusion in the NFL 2010's All-Decade Team

And the shining praise Allen continues to receive from Jaguars’ front office personnel, as well as both analysts and pundits, is strikingly evident; CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco placed the outside linebacker 88th on his recently-released Top 100 list for the 2020 NFL season—ahead of position counterparts Preston Smith, Arik Armstead and Darius Leonard—and senior writer John Oehser deemed that Allen had ‘earned more time this coming year.’ Additionally, nothing but admiration has come from the mouths of both Doug Marrone and Caldwell ever since the Kentucky prospect first arrived in Duval County—the Jaguars believe wholeheartedly in their 2019 first-round draft pick, from ownership on down, and the trust he has gained and quite frankly fully deserved from the front office and coaching staff is testament to both his ability and approach to the professional game.

So whether you think Shad Khan’s organisation is going to have a much-needed bounce-back campaign in 2020 or that the franchise will by vying for the first-overall pick in next April’s draft, one thing’s for certain: Josh Allen is primed and ready to become a serious sack-grabbing stalwart as his career progresses into a fresh decade of NFL football—and I, for one, cannot wait to see what the future holds for the record-breaking pass rusher.

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