Like most rookies in the NFL, former Kentucky All-American Josh Allen has had to battle injuries, learn a new system and fight for playing time as his Jacksonville Jaguars have been picked to win the AFC South this season.
But despite starting the pre-season with a knee contusion and finding himself second on the Jags depth chart at defensive end, nothing has stopped the No. 7 overall pick from making some big waves early on. Allen will play in his first regular season game on Sunday when Jacksonville plays host to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Earlier this week, Allen was selected by a trio of CBS football analysts as their pick for Rookie Defensive Player of the Year while Pro Football Focus (PFF.com) continued the love by picking UK’s all-time sacks leader as the Jacksonville Jaguars “breakout” star for 2019.
According to PFF, Allen has all the tools to be an active pass rusher and wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks as the Jags hope to improve on last year’s 5-11 record.
“Allen got off to a quiet start to his NFL career, earning a 53.4 overall grade from his 20 snaps in Week 1 of the preseason, but in Weeks 2 and 3, Allen looked every bit as good as we expected. Recording overall game grades of 87.3 and 83.2 in Week 2 and Week 3, respectively, Allen notched six total pressures from 23 pass-rush snaps over those games, with five of those pressures coming in his Week 3 game against the Dolphins.”
Even more impressive is the fact that Jags defensive coordinator Todd Wash has changed his tune on how the team might use Allen, who’s currently second on the depth chart behind Yannick Ngakoue, who combined with defensive tackle Calais Campbell for 20 sacks, 35 quarterback hits and 74 quarterback pressures last season.
“It’s obvious we have to get our best players on the field,” Wash said during the team’s recent football luncheon. “So obviously we’ve got two very good defensive ends in Josh and Yannick. We’ve got to come up with ways to get them both on the grass at the same time.”
Initially, Wash called Allen a “15 sack guy” that was drafted specifically as an end to rush the passer in a 4-3 scheme. However, Allen’s athleticism and ability to drop back in pass coverage could find him playing some outside linebacker in a 3-4 look that might put even more pressure on NFL quarterbacks.
“We have to be able to tweak our system a little bit, but our job as coaches is to put them in position to be successful and hopefully we can,” Wash said.
Kentucky fans will get another chance to see Allen in person when the Jags roll into Paul Brown Stadium on October 20th to take on the Cincinnati Bengals.