Jonathan Allen is a lot of things; a "me" guy is not one of them. He's all about the team and often defers to the collective success rather than his own.
With that said, getting to spend the week in Las Vegas with some of the NFL's top players for his first Pro Bowl is pretty sweet.
"It definitely is rewarding," Allen told senior vice president of media and content Julie Donaldson. "I feel like it's a reward for a great season, personally. And like I said, everyone's goal is to be able to make a Pro Bowl."
It may seem like a head-scratching statement, but yes, Allen made the Pro Bowl for the first time five years into his career. He grabbed 60 tackles for the fourth consecutive season, recorded a career-high nine sacks and finished the season with Pro Football Focus' second-best overall grade in the NFC.
So yeah, Allen has earned the distinction. He played more loosely in 2021, and it helped many realize what Washington Commanders fans already know: that Allen is one of the better interior defenders playing in the league.
"I feel like I was a lot less reserved," Allen said. "I was more loose, I was…taking more chances, just playing more aggressively, just more everything."
The Washington Commanders' defensive tackle Jonathan Allen takes a trip to Las Vegas for his first-career Pro Bowl appearance after putting together a standout 2021 season. Check out the top shots from the week. (Photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
In a group that has a surplus of first-round talent when it comes to rushing quarterbacks, Allen was a problem for offenses all year. That much was clear in the first two weeks of the season, when he matched the number of sacks he got in all of 2020. He had two in Washington's Week 2 win over the New York Giants, one of which involved him slamming Daniel Jones to the ground.
That's part of the reason why Allen earned the third-best pass-rush grade for an interior defender. Only Aaron Donald and Javon Hargrave received higher marks.
Allen would say his success was not entirely his own. He reiterated that statement after the Giants game by saying "No man can go out there and get all the sacks by himself." That's true, but that doesn't change the fact that Allen was playing on a different level.
"Jon is having an excellent, excellent season," said defensive line coach Sam Mills III. "He's one of our captains and he's one of our leaders and Jon's presence in the run game first and foremost has been outstanding. And then his pass rush. I mean, Jon is relentless. Jon is relentless and Jon is reliable. That is huge."
Head coach Ron Rivera also applauded Allen for his performance during the season and praised Allen's physicality at the point of attack.
"You get a lot of guys that stutter and float looking for an opportunity," Rivera said. "Jonathan just goes forward, and it's the quickest route to the quarterback."
Allen, who was drafted 17th overall by Washington in the 2017 NFL Draft, signed a contract extension last July, ensuring that he would be with the Burgundy & Gold for the foreseeable future. He earned the deal for his production and leadership up to that point, and he doubled down on both aspects after he put pen to paper.
Allen said one of his goals is to stay with one team for his entire career, and the extension provides an avenue for that. The team is excited to keep him around as well, because on top of the new contract, Allen was heavily featured in the Commanders' rebrand launch by wearing the new alternate uniform in the team's reveal video and speaking at the Commanders' press conference announcing their new identity.
"He's a young man that I think really fits the football team and also fits the community," Rivera said. "I think the thing about him…is that he's a guy that has had and is having success in his career. He earned a contract extension, he signed it and he continues to play at that top level."
And speaking of the future, he would like to get a few more Pro Bowl selections, too.
"The pressure is on to repeat next year and continue my level of excellence," Allen said. "That's what I'm looking forward to doing."