Thursday, 1 May 2008

The impact of Jared Allen

My life was super busy around draft time, so I never really got a chance to comment on any of the happenings (much thanks to Steve F. for his excellent post on the draft)... plus, since the Vikings didn't have a first-round choice, I didn't feel as strong of a need to comment on things.

However, I'm quite ok with the Vikings not having a first-round pick, since it allowed them to acquire the NFL's sack leader in 2007, shoring up their biggest defensive weakness, which is consistently getting to the QB with the Front 4.

For the past couple of seasons, the Vikings have had a lot of trouble stopping the pass. When people hear that, they generally assume that this is because of a porous secondary. Not that the Vikings secondary is all-world, but I never really saw that as the main reason. In my mind, there are two big reasons why they have struggled so much against the pass:

- They were so dominant against the run that people just didn't try. This is fairly obvious and has been beaten to death, but a couple of years ago, the Patriots came into the Metrodome for a Sunday night game, and they came out and literally threw the ball on about their first 20 offensive plays. This sorta provided the blueprint, and teams have simply been following it ever since.

- They could never have a consistent pass rush on the Line. Pat Williams is a man against the run, but he's not going to be putting consistent pressure on the QB. Kevin Williams is great, but facing constant double teams on the inside. Which should have, in theory, left lots of room for the DEs to operate, but it didn't always work that way. The hodgepodge of guys like Brian Robison, Ray Edwards, Kenechi Udeze, Darrion Scott, etc. are all average at best (at least, at this point in their careers) at getting to the QB. Even with 1-on-1 matchups, there was never a consistent rush of any type for the front 4. Which means 1 of 2 things happened: either the Vikings had to bring pressure from the LBs which opened things up in the passing game, or the secondary had to cover guys for a really long time. Neither is optimal.

So, of course, it's not hard to see how much of an impact Jared Allen will bring to the Vikings defense. He's one of (if not the) best pass rushers in the NFL, and he's not going to slow down the run defense either. Offensive teams will have a real tough time figuring out how to block the Vikings Line... they'll feature 3 All-Pros... 3 guys that could legitimately get double teamed if they weren't playing with the other two. On the opposite side, Ray Edwards and Brian Robison both seem to be developing into solid pass rushers, and should benefit from the increased attention that teams will have to pay Jared Allen.

So with Allen the Vikings should continue to be dominant against the run while improving them greatly against the pass. His pressure off the edge will keep QBs up at night, and it will hide any problems in the secondary because they won't have to cover as long.

For years, the Vikings have been searching for a dominant pass rushing DE, expending first round pick after first round pick on them. Now, it appears as if they finally have their man in Jared Allen. With his past, it's certainly a risk. The financial commitment is large. But when you look at his potential impact on the defense and on the franchise, giving up only a first round pick and 2 third rounders seems like a bargain.

Watching this video, I have only one thought... is it football season yet?