Tue, 22 Sep 2020

JACKSONVILLE - Josh Allen put it clearly.

He stated it simply, too - and with confidence. That's significant because the question was about his goals for the 2020 NFL season, and his goal is a lofty one.

"To try to be the best defensive player in the league," he said.

Allen, the Jaguars' second-year defensive end, spoke to local media via videoconference Wednesday - his first media availability of 2020 Training Camp. He spoke of leadership, improving in his second NFL season and the potential of rookie first-round edge defender K'Lavon Chaisson.

He spoke, too, about a major focus for the Jaguars' defense.

"Stopping the run is priority No. 1 to us right now," he said.

All those topics matter to Allen and to the Jaguars, but his season goal was perhaps his most intriguing answer Wednesday - if only because the goal is within Allen's reach.

Allen, the No. 7 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, showed many things as a rookie. Significantly for the Jaguars, he showed he is capable of indeed being one of the best - and perhaps the best - NFL defensive player.

Allen, despite playing just over 60 percent of the Jaguars' defensive snaps because of the presence of defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell, registered a team-high 10.5 sacks last season. His 22 quarterback pressures were second on the team to Campbell, and he was named to the Pro Bowl following the season.

Allen on Wednesday said he realizes being the NFL's best defender is a high standard.

"I had a high standard last year, and I kind of achieved that goal," Allen said. "Now, I set the bar really high for myself. I'm looking to stay there and stay at the top. I'm going to push myself as much as I can push each year. This year, I'm not holding anything back, man.

"I'm coming in the best I can, the best version of me. I feel like my game has grown. There's still a lot I have to learn, but I have high standards this year."

Allen said he, like many NFL players, considered opting out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19 - "I'd be lying if I said I didn't," he said - but he said his wife, Kaitlyn, along with his desire to be great, played a role in his playing. He and Kaitlyn have two young children, and Allen said he considered the risks playing could present to his family. Kaitlyn, he said, "really encouraged me to keep playing football this year."

"She knows what I'm striving for in my career," he said. "I have a great support system. I'm just here to stay safe and I hope my teammates do the same thing."

Allen said what he is striving for in 2020 is to be a more complete player than he was as rookie. He worked out in the offseason with trainer Jason Smith at Rise and Grind in nearby Orange Park, Florida, focusing on improving pass rush and "being a complete player."

"I worked on pass rush, but I worked on my whole game," Allen said. "It's so big to get caught up in sacks if you're considered a pass rusher. I'm not trying to be considered just a pass rusher. I'm trying to be considered a great defensive player. My main focus is on stop the run, tackles for losses, plays that disrupt the whole offense."

Allen said that's true of the entire Jaguars' defense, which struggled against the run last season.

"We have no choice," he said. "To be able to rush the passer, you have to stop the run. That's something we've been emphasizing this offseason. That's why instead of just working on my pass rush this year, I've tried to work on the run and being more physical up front so I can do a good job stopping the run.

"I didn't do as good job as I could have done last year, and I'm looking to improve on that."

Allen entering his second season has the look of perennial Pro Bowler - and many observers figure with Campbell having been traded to the Baltimore Ravens in the offseason, that Allen will correspondingly take on the role of veteran leader.

Allen said he will play such a role if need be, but said he knows the role is not automatically assumed.

"You've got to prove yourself first," he said. "You can't just self-claim yourself as a leader without people really knowing how hard you work and how much you push your thirst. I'm focused on getting myself together, getting myself right and being the best me I can be.

"Then my teammates hopefully can see that, see I'm working hard and being the best I can be. One thing Calais told me was, 'If you work on yourself, people will follow.' That's what I'm doing."

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