7 Downsides to Limiting Jared Allen's Snaps
Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier indicated in the first week of training camp that they were going to limit Jared Allen's playing time. That was evident when the Vikings opened the preseason on Friday in San Francisco. While he was in uniform during pregame warmups, Allen was in street clothes when the game started.
Along with Allen, the Vikings did not play defensive tackle Kevin Williams, cornerback Antoine Winfield or wide receiver Percy Harvin.
All are key to the Vikings' success in 2012, and with the exception of Harvin, all are 30 years old or older.
I understand the thought of protecting key players from injury and minimizing the wear and tear until the games count, but it is not in the best interest of the team, the fans or for Allen to limit his play after September 9th.
After consecutive last-place finishes in the NFC North, Frazier needs to turn things around and have the Vikings heading in the right direction if he wants to remain as coach.
The only reason to limit Allen's playing time would be to ensure his health as the Vikings look to deal the four-time first-team All-Pro. After all, it's very difficult to get anything of consequence in a trade for an injured player.
On the other hand, if the Vikings make the most of the talent they have on this team, including Allen, they could surprise a few teams and really generate some excitement in the Twin Cities.
Without Jared Allen on the Field, the Vikings Lose More Than Sacks
Even without reducing Jared Allen's playing time, it would be difficult to duplicate his 22 sack season from 2011.
But, Allen does so much more than sack the quarterback.
Last season, Jared Allen finished tied for second on the Vikings in interceptions—granted, he only had one.
This is a testament to how poorly the Vikings' secondary played last season. Just think how much worse it could have been without Allen putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Opposing offenses have to account for Allen, usually by placing an extra tight end on the line, or by having the running back chip him.
It did little to slow down the four-time first-team All-Pro.
Along with the 22 sacks and an interception, Allen finished with 66 tackles, four forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and a safety.
The Level of Play Drops with Jared Allen on the Sideline
The extra attention paid to Jared Allen when he is on the field allows for other Vikings to make some plays.
Brian Robison, in his first season, which was last season, as a starter opposite Allen at defensive end, had a career-high eight sacks.
In the four seasons before the Vikings traded for Allen, the most sacks by any single player was 11.5 by Kevin Williams in 2004.
From 2004 to 2007, the Vikings defense averaged 35.2 sacks per season—an average for 17th in the NFL.
Since Allen joined the Vikings in 2008, they have averaged 43.5 sacks per season, a 23 percent improvement. Led by Allen each year, their NFL ranking has improved to an average of 6.5 in the NFL. Twice in the past four years, they have led the league in sacks.
It makes no sense to make it easier on the opposition, and tougher on his teammates, by taking Allen off the field.
Sitting Allen Could Impact a Hall of Fame Career
Over his eight seasons in the NFL, Jared Allen has been named to the Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro four times, three as a Viking.
He is currently 20th on the all-time career sack list and third among active players with 105 sacks.
For Allen, who turned 30 this past April, there is still plenty of career left for him.
When you compare his numbers against the top four sack leaders in the NFL, he's right on pace with the best.
Bruce Smith, the all-time career leader in sacks with 200, had 92 after eight seasons with Buffalo. Smith played a total of 19 seasons in the NFL. He averaged 10 sacks per season after turning 30 years old.
Only Reggie White had more sacks after eight seasons than Allen with 124 sacks while playing for the Eagles. He would move to Green Bay to start his ninth season in the NFL and play another eight seasons, seven for the Packers and one for Carolina. After turning 30, he averaged 11 sacks per year.
Kevin Greene did not record a sack in his rookie season 1985 with the Rams. After eight years, he only had 72.5 sacks. In his 15-year career, he finished with 160 sacks. He averaged 12 sacks per season after turning 30.
Fourth on the all-time list for career sacks is Chris Doleman with 150.5. His 96.5 sacks while playing for the Vikings ranks second behind John Randle. After eight seasons, Doleman had 76 sacks and averaged 11 sacks per year after turning 30.
If he can average 10 sacks per season for another eight years, he would finish with 185 sacks and third all time in sacks, only 15 from matching Smith's record.
But in order for that to happen, he needs to be on the field.
Putting Jared Allen on the Bench Is Not Making the Most of His Talents
With 16 fumble recoveries and five interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, Jared Allen knows what to do when he gets the ball in his hands.
The Vikings might want to consider finding more ways to get Allen involved in the game.
In his last season with the Chiefs, Allen caught two passes for a total of three yards. That doesn't sound impressive until you consider that both of them went for touchdowns.
When the Vikings lost long snapper Cullen Loeffler last season and needed someone to step up and handle the duties until a replacement could be found, Allen stepped in, and the Vikings didn't miss a beat.
Instead of limiting his playing time, the Vikings should be thinking just the opposite.
I'm not suggesting that he plays every down on offense, but it certainly gives the opposing defense something to contend with.
Jared Allen Won't Like Sitting on the Bench
Jared Allen is a competitor; there's no questioning that.
In a story earlier this summer by Judd Zulgad from 1500 ESPN, Allen indicated he is very much focused on breaking Michael Strahan's single-season record.
He also knows that no player has ever had two seasons with 20 sacks, but that doesn't deter him.
Like any competitor, Allen wants to win, and in order to help their team win, he wants to be on the field.
While head coach Leslie Frazier says he wants to limit Allen's play, according to Jeremy Fowler of Pioneer Press, he also indicated that it cannot affect the team.
He knows it will be difficult to hold Allen back as the Vikings had the same intention last season when Allen wound up playing on 90 percent of the defensive plays.
If the Vikings aren't winning and Allen is not on the field, things could get ugly.
While there has been no indication that Allen is unhappy, I wouldn't be surprised if he questioned the Vikings' use of him in another losing season.
Just as Percy Harvin complained about how the Vikings were using him, spending too much time on the sidelines instead of on the field could leave Allen disgruntled if his playing time drops and the defense suffers.
There's No Reason to Sit Him; Jared Allen Has Proven He Is Durable
Since entering the league in 2004 as the Kansas City Chiefs' fourth-round draft pick, Jared Allen has played in 125-of-128 regular-season games.
Since joining the Vikings in 2008, he has not missed a game.
Even when he took a shot to the knee against Detroit in 2008, that knocked him out of the game; it did not prevent him from making a start the following week.
That season, he finished with 14.5 sacks.
Allen has proved he can handle the grind of a 16-game NFL season; there's no reason to limit his play.
What Else Are Fans Going to Pay Attention To?
The Vikings finished the 2011 season 1-7 with a six-game losing streak.
The 3-13 season matched the most losses in franchise history.
As the Vikings defense was setting the dubious mark by going nine games without an interception, Jared Allen was on a one-man crusade, chasing not only the Vikings single-season sack record held by Chris Doleman, but the all-time NFL mark held by Michael Strahan.
Battling with DeMarcus Ware of Dallas for the league lead most of the season, Allen had 12.5 sacks at the half-way point of the season.
Over the final eight games Allen added another 9.5 sacks, finishing the season with 3.5 against the Bears—just one-half sack short of Strahan's record.
It was Allen's historic run that kept Minnesota fans' attention last season.