No. 10: Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings

| May 3, 2012

In a season when Jared Allen came within half a sack of the single-season record, it speaks volumes for the general standard of play and the number of records that were actually broken that he was bumped all the way down to 10th in the Top 101 list.

In the midst of a disastrous season for the Minnesota Vikings, Allen was still fighting hard, growing visibly frustrated on the sidelines with some of the play around him, and chasing down a sack record until the very final plays of the year.

That may be the defining characteristic of Jared Allen in the NFL–relentlessness. Allen led the league in sacks in 2011, but he also led all 4-3 defensive ends in time on the field by some distance (his 1044 snaps were 71 ahead of Jacksonville’s Jeremy Mincey and were 94.4% of all Viking defensive plays). Allen was the only 4-3 DE to top 1,000 snaps this season–his highest snap total in any of the last four seasons–and he responded not by wearing down, but by putting together arguably his best season despite the defense around him falling away.

While many sacks do come from unblocked pressure or in pursuit of the quarterback after the initial block has long since disintegrated, only three of Allen’s 24 sacks came in that fashion last season. He didn’t just record a huge sack total, but he did it displaying a comprehensive array of pass rush moves. He either led the league or was in the Top 3 in sacks from outside, inside, and bullrush moves. Not only is he relentless and impossible to gas out, but Allen isn’t just a one-trick pony; he is a smart pass rusher adept at multiple pass-rushing techniques.

The Viking also has impressive timing for the big play and isn’t any easier to stop when the offense knows the rush is coming. He tied for the league lead with seven sacks on third downs, the jackpot play for pass rushers because most of the time it forces the offense off the field and brings on the punter.

Perhaps the least publicized aspect of his season, though, was how well he played the run. Allen came in sixth in our ratings for 4-3 DEs against the run; trailing only Terrell Suggs and Jason Pierre-Paul among prolific sack-artists. In fact, against the Broncos in Week  13, he gave a clinic to those watching on how to play Tim Tebow and the read-option, and it is this complete play as much as anything that propels him so high in our Top 101 list.

 

Best Performance: Week 5 vs. Arizona (+7.5)

By this point in 2011 the Vikings hadn’t yet resigned themselves to the season that they ultimately slumped into, and though they had started the season 0-4, they had been arguably the better side in three of those games, taking substantial leads into the half before collapsing to defeats. This game was perhaps the only game all season in which they played to their full potential, and they came away with a 34-10 victory over the Cardinals.

Allen was instrumental in that victory, picking up a pair of sacks, a knockdown, four more hurries, and a batted pass from his 65 snaps and 42 pass rushes. He also recovered a fumble on a sack from Brian Robison early in the first quarter. Allen is a player that is capable of taking over games at times, and this was one of those games as he proved far too much for LT Levi Brown and made Kevin Kolb’s day a very long one. Kolb had a nightmare, tossing a pair of interceptions, barely completing 50% of his pass attempts, and throwing for an NFL QB rating of just 46.9 by the time the final seconds wound off the clock … and much of that came because of the constant threat of pressure off his blind side from Allen.

 

Key Stat: Sacked the QB 24 times

The official NFL statistics will tell you Jared Allen ended the season with 22 sacks, a half sack shy of Michael Strahan’s NFL record achieved in dubious circumstances when Brett Favre flopped to the ground rather weakly to surrender the record-breaking take down. What Pro Football Focus can tell you, however, is that Jared Allen actually got to the QB 24 times last season. We don’t differentiate between sacks and half-sacks, instead choosing to award both players a full sack if they happened to meet at the quarterback at the same time, rather than penalizing both for making simultaneous big plays.

As it happens, though, that isn’t an argument for Allen holding the all-time record, because when you take half-sacks out of Strahan’s record-setting season, he finished the year with 25–separated from Allen once more by that infamous sack of Brett Favre. Whichever way you choose to look at it, though, taking down the quarterback for a loss 24 times in a single season is an incredible achievement, and one that goes a long way toward earning the Viking his spot in the Top 10 players on our list.

 

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