There is talk surrounding the Minnesota Vikings defense that should put all fans on alert.
The focus of this talk revolves around a certain defensive lineman who was a mere half sack from tying the NFL single-season record. The idea: limiting the number of snaps that player is on field for in 2012.
The player in question is Jared Allen.
The reason for limiting his snaps in 2012: to ensure the Pro Bowl defensive end is fresh throughout the season.
I haven’t had a good laugh like that in some time.
Allen was the NFL’s best defensive end in 2012, and as the season progressed his on-field performance didn’t take a hit.
Of Allen’s 22 sacks, 8.5 were recorded in the year’s final five games (1.7 per game). Of his 66 tackles, 18 came in the final five games (3.6).
For the season Allen averaged 4.1 tackles and 1.4 sacks per game so his tackles per game decreased over that stretch while his sack average increased.
Exhaustion could be an explanation for the decrease in tackles. I won’t take that off the table. But another explanation, one I believe in more, could be increased attention received by opposing offenses. By the end of the year, Minnesota’s defensive unit was pretty well damaged.
Chris Cook was suspended with off-field issues. Antoine Winfield was out for the year with a shoulder injury.
E.J. Henderson proved he wasn’t near the player he once was at middle linebacker. Opposite Kevin Williams at defensive tackle was a large gap.
Erin Henderson never scared opposing defenses.
The one player who consistently intimidated offenses was Jared Allen. Defenses began to game-plan around him.
Yes, that would mean his sack total would take a hit, but when a player is as good at his craft like Allen is at getting to the quarterback it’s difficult to stop. Allen’s always been known as a pass-rusher. His game has gradually become more well-rounded.
According to Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Allen was on the field for roughly 95 percent of Minnesota’s defensive snaps and came a mere half sack shy of tying the NFL record."
Minnesota must be thinking of limiting Allen’s snaps in part because of the standout performance of both Brian Robison and Everson Griffen in 2011.
Griffen posted four sacks in limited time in 2011 and could become a ferocious pass-rusher given an expanded role.
In his first year as an NFL starter Robison recorded eight sacks and 44 tackles. With more experience he could be even better in 2012.
But Allen is still the best of the three, no questions asked. And better at every facet of the game.
Griffen is strictly known as a pass-rusher and Allen’s the best in the business.
Robison showed progression as a run defender in 2011 but still would get manhandled by bigger offensive tackles from time to time. Allen is bigger and better at stopping the run than Robison. He deserves more playing time.
It’s not just me who is opposed to this idea. The man himself is, too.
"I'm willing to do anything to win, but I don't like coming off the field. I work so hard in the offseason to get in the best shape I can,” Allen told Brian Hall of Fox Sports North. “My theory's always been, 'You want to rest me, rest me during the week because I get paid to play on Sundays.' That's when I'm out there to make plays. I feel like if I'm on the field, I can make a play to help us win."
At 30 years old some, including the Vikings, are worried that Allen won’t be able to stay fresh the way he once could. But Allen said so himself: He worked his tail off this offseason to ensure he was in good enough shape to take as many snaps in 2012 as he did in 2011.
Since becoming a Minnesota Viking Jared Allen has played in all 16 games, and during his eight-year career he's missed a total of three games.
Two of those games were missed because of an NFL suspension for a DUI he received in 2007. He's been the picture of perfect health during his career.
That isn't to say Allen doesn't need to take breathers. Every player in the NFL does. Allen did so last year. But Minnesota shouldn’t go out of its way to limit Allen’s snaps. The man is the best in the business at what he does.
Others will argue that limiting his playing time at this age will keep him that way, but the man worked his tail off in the offseason for a reason. Let him prove himself yet again.