Jonathan Allen has never been one to take all the credit for his individual success. Nothing will change that, not even if he happens to be putting up exceptional numbers as a pass-rusher.
"As happy as I am to get off to a hot start," Allen said following the Washington Football Team's 30-29 thrilling victory over the New York Giants, "It's really not just me. No man can go out there and get all the sacks by himself."
Allen hasn't wasted any time living up to the four-year contract extension he signed over the summer. Thanks to a pair of sacks last Thursday night, including a suplex on Daniel Jones, Allen already has more sacks in two games (3) than he did in all of 2020 (2). It would be easy for him to take all the praise -- there aren't many who would speak against him, either -- but rather than keep the spotlight all to himself, he's been giving props to his teammates.
"If we're being honest, I think sacks are very situational," Allen said. "Out of my three sacks, I feel like two of them are because of what other guys around me did."
To be fair, Allen does have a point. Much of a defensive lineman's ability to bring quarterbacks to the ground depends on how long defensive backs are able to cover and whether the rest of the rush is successful. It was because of Chase Young’s pressure against the Los Angeles Chargers that forced Justin Herbert to step up in the pocket, where Allen was there to wrap his arms around the second-year quarterback.
A similar situation happened five days later against the Giants; Daron Payne beat center Billy Price and crashed the pocket, and Allen grabbed Jones before he could slip away.
As humble as Allen has been recently, there's no denying that his second sack on Jones -- the one that ended with the quarterback being slung to the ground -- was a standout individual effort. This time, it was his turn to rip through Price, and after wrestling away from the center's grasp, he had a clear path to create a seven-yard loss.
It was part of a four-sack night from Washington's defense -- a definitive improvement from its opener against the Chargers.
"We did enough to get the win, but moving forward, we just have to do better," Allen said. "It's not like the issues are we're just not good enough, we obviously have the talent. We just got to focus on the little things, and honestly, thank God our offense was there to save us time and time again."
In what was expected to be a year for Young or Montez Sweat to dominate Washington's pass rush, Allen has been an early leader in the category. On top of leading the team in sacks -- he's also tied for third in the league -- he also has eight pressures.
So, is Allen played exceptionally well the start the year, or does all the success go to the rest of Washington's defense? Ron Rivera’s answer: it's both.
"I think a lot of it has to do with the guys around [him]," Rivera said Friday. "He benefits from having really solid teammates. Guys that command certain types of protections out there. And at the same time, just his own natural ability to make plays as well. It's a really good unit."
Allen feels that 2020 was one of his best years as a pass-rusher in his "entire life." Seeing as he finished eighth in individual pass-rush win rate, it's hard to argue with that statement. Still, that doesn't take away from the impact Allen is having so far. After all, he's already about halfway towards tying the career-high eight sacks he recorded in 2018.
And seeing as Washington will be playing the Buffalo Bills, who allowed the ninth-fewest sacks in 2020, the team will need all the pressure it can get from Allen, regardless of whether that's generated from his teammates or Allen himself.