Friday, October 28, 2011
AllenWatch: Success from the right side
By Kevin Seifert
You're probably aware that Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen grabbed two more sacks last Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, bringing his NFL-leading total to 11.5 through seven games. If you care to project, you know that Allen remains on pace to break the NFL single-season sack record.
So let's review one aspect of his dominance this season that you might not have noticed. I know I didn't until it was pointed out by ESPN Stats & Information.
All of Allen's sacks have come when lined up as a right defensive end, ostensibly facing the opponent's left tackle. That's more than double the next-highest total among NFL pass rushers; the San Francisco 49ers' Aldon Smith has 5.5 sacks when lined up across the opponent's left side.
Allen primarily plays the right end position, but like most teams, the Vikings move him around on occasion for matchup or stunt purposes. Generally speaking, an opponent's left tackle is its best pass blocker and is best equipped to compete with an elite pass rusher. As the discrepancy beween Allen and Smith shows, most of the NFL's top pass rushers generate at least some of their success elsewhere.
It's fair to point out that Allen hasn't played against many of the NFL's top left tackles. The Packers' Chad Clifton missed last weekend's game and was replaced by Marshall Newhouse. Allen had two sacks against the Packers, three against the Detroit Lions (Jeff Backus), and another two against the Kansas City Chiefs (Branden Albert) and the Arizona Cardinals (Levi Brown). He managed a half sack against the San Diego Chargers' Marcus McNeil, a two-time Pro Bowler.
Each team uses different blocking schemes, and sometimes the left tackle isn't assigned to block Allen -- at least not alone. But at the very least, however, we can say that Allen's elite-level success is coming exclusively against opponents' best pass blockers. No one else in the NFL can support that statement.