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Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen is just getting started

Demetrius Harvey

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Sep 8, 2019; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen (41) looks on during the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Selecting defensive end Josh Allen at seventh overall was — by many observers — a complete steal by the Jaguars. Now, the young pass rusher is honing his craft to become one of the best in the league.

Throughout the offseason, preseason, and now shortly into the regular season, Jaguars fans and the Jaguars coaching staff have seen the type of versatility, pass rush, and skill set  Josh Allen can provide to the team.

Whether it’s playing linebacker, defensive end, or defensive tackle, Allen can do it all. Coming into the 2019 NFL Draft, Allen was thought of as more of a 3-4 outside linebacker. However, in just a few months the now-275-pound athlete is proving otherwise.

“The most I can do man is the better I can be,” Allen told Locked on Jaguars shortly after practice this week when asked about his versatility. “It means I can be out there on the field more, doing more things. I love being a versatile player, I love being able to do a lot of different things so I can stay on that field as much as I can and make plays for my team.”

The Jaguars rookie played 75% of the team’s defensive snaps last week (51/68 plays) while seeing action at three separate positions — defensive end, defensive tackle, and outside linebacker. Allen has also shown he can defend the pass, especially in the flats as seen during the team’s third preseason game against the Miami Dolphins.

The fiery pass-rusher dons the number 41, a number in which he himself admits is unconventional, and while at first, he did not care for it, it eventually grew on him.

“My freshman year I thought it was my locker number,” Allen said while laughing. “I wasn’t happy when I got it. I was trying to change it, to be real. You know they told me I couldn’t and it just stuck with me and I just kept wearing it.”

Typically a player’s number has some sort of significance to it, but that is not the case for Allen. What is significant to him, however, is his son. The absolute reason why he suits up and plays with the intensity that he does on the gridiron. While Allen wants to be the best player, his son has always, and will always come first.

“You know I got in this game to give my family a better opportunity at life, and now that I’m here man, it’s just my main focus is to provide for my family and provide for myself.”

While at Kentucky, Allen nearly entered the draft as a junior, but once his son was born he had a different perspective on life, and on football. As a junior, Allen posted seven sacks and 10.5 tackles-for-loss. Respectable numbers which likely would slot him in the first to the third-round range. Allen took it as a challenge and flourished.

During his senior year, Allen posted record-setting numbers with 17 sacks and 21.5 tackles-for-loss which — for a Kentucky defensive player — is unheard of. To that end, Allen quickly climbed draft boards, many slotting him in as a top-three pick.

Now in the NFL, Allen is striving for even more. “Of course I want to be the best,” Allen said. “I got a little bit on my shoulders, but I’m willing to go a long mile with that.”

The defensive end will have a lot on his shoulders this Sunday. With his partner-in-crime Yannick Ngakoue out with a hamstring issue, many assume Allen will need to pick up the slack left by the pro bowler’s absence, but that is not his mentality at all. Instead, Allen looks at it in a rather selfless, team-oriented perspective.

“It is what it is,” Allen said when asked about Ngakoue being out on Sunday and him playing a little more. “I pray he gets better. That’s main priority number one, is for him to get healthy. It’s not about me playing more or him not being here. It’s about him being healthy and us playing 100% on the defense.”

Allen has been about the team more than himself since college, illustrating that with his desire to suit up in a bowl game he didn’t necessarily have to play in. Now in Jacksonville, that perspective has not changed. Similar to his role on Sunday.

“My role hasn’t changed any,” Allen said. “I played when he was in the game, played when he (Ngakoue) wasn’t in the game. It’s not gonna be a big change for me, but I just pray he gets better so we can be a complete unit.”

While Allen’s role may not change for Sunday, not having Ngakoue will most definitely affect the Jaguars chances of winning. Ngakoue has yet to miss a game during his four-year career, and has been the most productive edge rusher on the team during that span, along with defensive end Calais Campbell.

Allen didn’t grow up a football player, and instead played basketball the majority of his life. Once he put the football pads on, however, Allen says he started studying all kinds of pass rushers. Allen would go on to list them off. (Bears defensive end) Khalil Mack, (Broncos outside linebacker) Von Miller, (Former Broncos outside linebacker) DeMarcus Ware, (Colts defensive end) Justin Houston. Some of the best defensive ends, and football players of the past decade. “I feel like I can do the stuff they do,” Allen quipped.

Allen has drawn comparisons to Mack and Miller throughout the draft process and even now shortly into his professional career. If Allen can “do the stuff they do”, he will have been an absolute steal as many pundits predicted.

For now, Allen will continue to hone his craft and stay under the wings of Campbell and Ngakoue. He has leaned on both players for guidance throughout the offseason, and into the regular season. “Calais has been in the league for a long time, Yan for a little bit of time — he’s one of those primetime players,” Allen said. “Having them in my corner has been a blessing, a big help. Not only is it gonna help me, but they’re gonna help the whole team as well.”

Now, going into his second career game, his next test will be against one of the best offensive tackle’s in the game in Texans offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil. “He’s a big guy, he’s real physical on the point of attack,” Allen said when asked what he’s seen out of Tunsil on tape. “It makes a lot of big plays. He’s [a] real athletic tackle — that doesn’t discredit anything — so we’re still gonna have to put the pressure on him and get to the quarterback.”

It’s clear former Wildcat thinks highly of himself. Last week, Allen was credited with having three pressures and one quarterback hit according to Pro Football Focus — the most amount of overall pressures on the team. Yet, the defensive end described his play as just “alright”, when asked about it.

“I know I can work on some things to get better and plan to do those this week.”

Demetrius Harvey is the lead editor for the Locked on Jaguars website covering breaking news, breakdowns, and more. You can follow him at @Demetrius82 on twitter.

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Interview

Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue knows the defense has room to grow

Demetrius Harvey

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Oct 6, 2019; Charlotte, NC, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (91) reacts after a tackle against the Carolina Panthers in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars have been known as a defensive powerhouse for the past several years, however recently the tides have turned. One constant that’s remained is defensive end Yannick Ngakoue who is still turning the corner. 

When the Jaguars’ offseason began, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue staged a holdout in hopes of becoming one of the highest-paid defensive ends in the NFL. His hold out only lasted a week or so, but it was a stance he was willing to take entering the final year of his contract.

Ngakoue easily could have held out — thus hurting the team defensively — for the betterment of himself, but he decided to come back anyway. His coaches have admired his dedication to his craft for years, and it shows by the production he has put on the field since he was drafted in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

“As soon as the game was over, I texted him right away. Because he comes to work every day. He’s passionate about what he does. He’s very good at what he does, so it’s good to see him have some individual success last Sunday with two sacks,” Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash said on Thursday when asked about Ngakoue’s recent success. “But knowing Yannick [Ngakoue], the first thing he texts back is, ‘I feel like hell because we lost.’ And that’s the type of person that Yannick is. He’s more team than [an] individual, and that’s why we love him.”

The Jaguars defense struggled in their 27-34 loss against the Caroline Panthers, and Ngakoue feels rather than this week being about staying in their gaps as a defensive line, it is moreso just working on technique.

Now, entering week six Ngakoue registered his first sacks of the season last Sunday after getting to Panthers’ quarterback Kyle Allen twice over the course of the game. Early-season struggles due to a nagging hamstring injury have limited some of Ngakoue’s production during his contract season. However, the young defensive end isn’t worried about himself, he’s worried about the team.

In some contract-dispute situations players can have the tendency to press or feel down because they aren’t producing well enough to earn a contract they may feel is acceptable to them. Ngakoue has always held himself to a different standard, putting God and the team first before anything.

“All glory to God, God put me in position and I executed,” Ngakoue told Locked On Jaguars on Thursday when asked how it felt to finally get a sack this season. “So like I say all glory to God, all glory to heaven. Also, major respect to my teammates because they did their job in those specific plays to help me get back there.”

Unpromoted, and unsolicited, Ngakoue credits his teammates with every success he has individually instead of implying he wanted more or had to step his own game up for himself. There is zero selfishness within him.

Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

In week six, the Jaguars need to get back to being who they are, but at this point, the 2017 team has to be forgotten, and Ngakoue agrees. “We did a lot of great things in 2017,” Ngakoue told Locked On Jaguars on Thursday. “But we can’t keep looking back at that because ultimately everybody always mentions it because that was the standard that we set, and we’re just trying to pass that standard.”

The Jaguars defense has taken a backseat to their offense this season. In years past, the Jaguars offense would essentially have been carried through the season because of the performance on defense. Now the tables have turned, however, Ngakoue still has a strong belief in this team and its defense.

“It’s still a long season you know we still got — its the second quarter of the season, there’s still a lot we can do. ”

Earlier this week, Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell spoke about the offense. He said, for the first time since he has been with the team, the offense can be relied upon to score points, and the confidence on that side of the ball has skyrocketed.

Ngakoue agrees and mentions quarterback Garnder Minshew, wide receiver DJ Chark Jr., and running back Leonard Fournette as the key pieces which form the offense and its success thus far this season.

“Absolutely, we got an offense that compliments each other,” Ngakoue said when asked about the success of the offense and how different it is from years past. “We used to be a defensive-minded team —  in the outside world, we were known for defense. But at the end of the day, we got a great offense too.”

The Jaguars currently rank sixth in total offense according to NFL.com. Much of that is due to the play of Minshew who has thrown for 1,279 yards, nine touchdowns, and one interception thus far this season.

If the Jaguars continue their success on offense and build a defense even closely resembling that of 2017, the team will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. Their next task will be stopping the unstoppable in New Orleans Saints’ running back Alvin Kamara and receiver Michael Thomas.

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Interview

Jaguars tight end Ben Koyack on his return: “like riding a bicycle”

Demetrius Harvey

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Jan 7, 2018; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Ben Koyack (83) catches a touchdown pass against Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Ramon Humber (50) during the third quarter in the AFC Wild Card playoff football game at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars lost tight end James O’Shaughnessy for the season due to a torn ACL on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. In return, they brought back a familiar face — tight end Ben Koyack. 

When the Jaguars lost James O’Shaughnessy for the season many speculated the team may look for outside help instead of promoting rookie tight end Charles Jones to the active roster. Jones has been on the team’s practice squad since the start of the season.

Instead of promoting Jones, the Jaguars opted to bring back a familiar face in former Jaguars’ seventh-round pick Ben Koyack. Koyack says being back is just like riding a bicycle, “just taking a day to get right back into it,” Koyack told Locked On Jaguars.

Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone says he feels comfortable with Koyack because he has been here, “He knows the system.  He can come in and go right away. We’ll just see how he looks. He’s in shape. He’s ready to go. He’s stayed prepared.” While the Jaguars did workout other players, they felt most comfortable going with someone who is comfortable in their system and can easily integrate himself into the offense.

Koyack was signed by the team yesterday on Wednesday shortly before early-morning team meetings. Being back with the team and with a brand-new quarterback can be exhausting, but fortunately, Koyack has familiarity. Koyack was originally drafted by the team in 2015 and has since been released by the team three separate times, including on September 1st of this year.

His claim to fame happened in 2017 during the team’s playoff run against the Buffalo Bills. Koyack caught the game-winning — and only — touchdown of the game for the Jaguars’ 10-3 win over the Buffalo Bills. The team’s first playoff win in a decade. Since then, Koyack has been waived twice by the team but is coming back when the team is red-hot with a young rookie quarterback in Garnder Minshew.

For Koyack, he has been around Minshew, playing with he rookie quarterback during training camp of this season.  “I’ve been watching him since day one, so it’s good to see him take the reigns and run with it and a great job.” Minshew is entering his fifth-start of the season.

The fifth-year tight is ready to get involved with the Jaguars’ new offense for the first time this season. “Of course,” Koyack said when asked if he was excited to get back out there. “It’s good to always get running again, and get involved with everything to help the team win.”

The Jaguars will need production from Koyack since they lost their most productive tight end on Sunday. When asked whether or not he and O’Shaughnessy have a great relationship, Koyack replied,”[He] and I are definitely boys, I mean we talked a lot, even when I wasn’t doing anything, I would always get in touch with him. It’s terrible to see anything happen, especially with your friends.”

Koyack says he and O’Shaughnessy have talked a couple of times after the injury, and he hopes for the best for his friend.

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Jaguars longest-tenured player Abry Jones has full confidence in team, Garnder Minshew

Demetrius Harvey

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Dec 16, 2018; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Abry Jones (95) works out prior to the game at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars have overcome a lot of adversity this season. From losing their starting quarterback, to dealing with a disgruntled cornerback, the team has been able to flip the switch and just play football.

With only four weeks into the season, the Jaguars have dealt with several speedbumps. Thus far, they have dealt with the adversity in stride. Their rookie starting quarterback Gardner Minshew has all but silenced fans reeling from the loss of former Superbowl MVP Nick Foles. Their two-game win streak has somewhat overshadowed the trade request by their most prized player on defense in cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

A lot of the credit not only goes to Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone but also to the Jaguars players who have played unselfishly and as a complete team over the course of the season. The Jaguars are currently 2-2, and if not for an inch during their matchup against the Houston Texans in week two, they would be 3-1 entering Sunday’s matchup against the Carolina Panthers.

The Jaguars longest-tenured player, defensive tackle Abry Jones, has been through it all. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2013 he has dealt with losing seasons, coaching changes, and unprecedented roster turnover.

The turnover has essentially been ongoing. Since 2015, the only players still on the team are, Jones, center Brandon Linder, right guard A.J. Cann,  center/guard Tyler Shatley, and wide receiver Marqise Lee. With only five players from 2015 left on the roster, this team is essentially brand new.

Jones knows this team is different from teams he has played with since joining the Jaguars in 2013. “It’s how close everyone is pretty much,” Jones told Locked On Jaguars on Friday shortly after practice when asked what makes this team different or special than the others he has played with in the past. “A real family approach inside the locker room, everyone is real close-knit.”

Having family values was especially noticeable during training camp, Jones says. Training camp is one of the most competition-fueled environments in the NFL. Players are fighting for a roster spot or starting positions, and at times it can get heated.

While there may be teams who try to one-up each other to make the roster or tear people down in order to feel better about themselves, the Jaguars helped each other instead. “No one was trying to shun people out to win a spot, everyone would still pass information trying to make sure the next man always got better.”

There are especially times when the locker room could have completely derailed this season — even while it’s still very much in its infancy. Although distractions and a quarterback change could have got the better of some teams, Jones feels that simply doesn’t describe this team or its players.

“No one needed to be reigned in,” Jones said when asked if there was anyone who reigned in the players during the course of the season. “It’s football, we know [there are] things [that] happen every year but at the end of the day, no matter what happens, there’re people in here that love the game and want to play football, we [are] gonna come out here and do it to the best of our ability.”

With games to play yet, there was no need to let situations dictate or derail the team. Just working on the next objective which was to get better, and to play football.

The Jaguars have risen to the occasion, and for the past several weeks have been led by a rookie quarterback in Minshew. Jones has been impressed by the rookie quarterback’s work ethic and his ability to come in and play as well as he has over the course of the season. Minshew recently won the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Month award and has won three out of four Rookie of the Week awards to begin the season.

“Of course when you first looked at him, it was, you know, he’s not Nick [Foles], but as our teammate, we have confidence in him,” Jones said when asked what he’s thought about the rookie quarterback.

“The way he’s playing now just really helps to show that. I know that me — and I’m pretty sure everybody else — didn’t really distrust him from the beginning and he’s really shown what we believed he can do.”

Now, the Jaguars will face another obstacle this week against the Carolina Panthers. The team has a chance to get to 3-2 and retain possession of a share of first place in the AFC South.

The Panthers have their own cult hero in running back Christian McCaffrey. The superstar has been at the center of the team’s discussion this week with the Jacksonville media, and for good reason.

Jones knows how much of a versatile player McCaffrey is as a running back and a receiver. A true force to be reckoned with in the trenches. “He’s pretty much the heart and soul of that team, offense right now,” Jones said. While the Panthers have a tremendous leader on defense with Luke Kuechly, the team’s offense and direction in general runs through their running back. He’s their engine.

“He’s just so diverse — it’s going to take all 11 players on the field. It’s not one thing — we can’t just close him out and hope to get a win. He really sets up the rest of his teammates with his play.”

Bringing down McCaffrey will be no easy task. The former Stanford running back has over 250 yards rushing after contact, and while he was toted as a scatback coming out of college, he is much more than that. McCaffrey currently leads the NFL in rushing yards with 411 and is has the third-highest receiving yards for a running back in the NFL with 218.

“He’s really transitioned his game to show that he’s an all three-downs back,” Jones said about McCaffrey. “He’s always churning his feet. He’s not a guy [that] just because you think he’s small stature [so] you can put a shoulder and he’s gonna fall — he’s built way different than that.”

McCaffrey has incredible balance, and it will take all of the team’s strength to bring him down on Sunday.

The Jaguars will have to remain a complete team for the rest of the season, and their first task will be taking down McCaffrey and the Carolina Panthers this Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.

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