Playing inside, Allen through three games has been charted with the second-best pass rush-win rate among all defensive tackles, behind the Rams’ Aaron Donald. Donald is at 25 percent; Allen is at 19 percent, tied with the Jets’ Quinnen Williams.
“It wasn’t how he played or how smart he was, it was just his body,” Joseph said. “He’s changed his body so he’s making more plays in the trenches. That’s where he has to play. As a rusher, he is winning. The ball is coming out fairly fast but he’s winning his one-on-ones for the most part.”
The body needed muscle and girth. Allen knows that. “In college you’re playing outside and you think ‘Oh I’m this big, bad guy’ and then you get to the NFL and you’re playing more inside and you’re playing against grown men,” he said.
And while Allen grimaces when the idea that injuries have been an realistic excuse, he acknowledged few understood how serious his neck injury was, or how the high-ankle sprain from his second season never quite healed as needed and became a problem in 2021.
The irony is Allen had his best season last year, adding four sacks and an interception around his clear elevation to the team’s top defensive lineman (thanks to Watt’s shoulder injury), all while playing on a bad ankle.
“It was like, ‘I’m injured — this can’t be happening,’ ” Allen said. “It was an ignorance-was-bliss situation but it was also like we-have-no-ligaments situation, basically playing with a broken leg.”
All Allen wants to do is play the season unscathed. His contract situation? He’s got an agent for that, and besides, he feels like football takes up all his time in-season to think much about next year. There is also the matter of trying to help anchor a defense that has started slow three straight games and can’t afford to any longer.
The most important thing about what he tell rookie Zach Allen? Don’t ride the roller coaster. Look only ahead.
“You want to Monday morning quarterback it, but we’re here now,” Allen said. “Now, I want to kind of prove what I can do with a clean slate.”