Yes, Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen has fallen off the record-breaking pace he set earlier this season. Allen's total has leveled off at 14.5 sacks through 12 games, leaving him 8.5 away from breaking Michael Strahan's single-season record.
But let's not for a moment undersell the extraordinary season Allen has had, both from a production and effort standpoint. I've had a number of people around the league comment on how hard Allen has continued to play despite the Vikings' gloomy outlook. And when you look at his numbers, Allen is nothing if not a strong candidate for the NFL's defensive player of the year award.
Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware is the only player with more sacks. Allen also has a safety, an interception, four tipped passes, four forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries this season. His 51 tackles, though unofficial, are the third-most among defensive ends and rank fourth overall among defensive linemen.
His performance isn't getting much attention nationally, as is typical for players on losing teams. Speaking this week with Detroit-area reporters, Allen appeared at peace with his situation.
"If we were having a better [season], probably [would] be in the running for defensive player of the year," Allen said. "But you know what? There's a reason for it. Something good will come out of it, [and] we'll be a better team in the future for it."
Allen is under contract for two more years and will have a $14.2 million cap number in 2012. Some of you have asked if the Vikings should or would consider trading him this offseason to supplement what appears to be a significant rebuilding process. I wouldn't see the wisdom in that.
Allen is a relatively young 29 and is a good bet for double-digit sacks even in a down season for him. Some NFL teams go years without having a single player exceed 10 sacks. And the example Allen has set this season is something the Vikings should build around rather than use as a commodity.