JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — All Josh Allen could think about before Sunday’s game was the bad practice he had earlier in the week.
It didn’t bother the Jacksonville Jaguars rookie linebacker so much that he couldn’t sleep the night before the game, but he was annoyed enough by the bad practice that he believed he had to make up for it against the New York Jets.
Two sacks, three quarterback hits and a forced fumble certainly did it. Allen now has seven sacks — tied for the most among rookies this season — and he’s on pace to shatter the franchise’s rookie sack record and threaten the team’s overall single-season sack record. He’s on pace to challenge the NFL’s rookie sack record, too.
“I just felt so bad about myself because I know I’m going to be a great player and I know that was going to hit me, so I just had to get my mind right,” Allen said. “Little mistakes that I normally don’t make that I was making and just me knowing what I’m supposed to do but not doing it. It was hard for me to swallow that because I’m going to be my worst critic.
“I wanted to show the coaches that on Sundays I’m going to be here to play.”
He really didn’t need to prove that to them because they already know. They’ve known since the moment he somehow got through to the Jaguars when they were ready to make the seventh overall pick in the draft. And it was reinforced the moment he stepped onto the field in training camp.
Did they expect Allen to be in position to break Yannick Ngakoue’s rookie sack record (eight in 2016) and become the first rookie in franchise history to record double-digit sacks? Did they think that by midseason, Allen would be on pace to come up just short of Calais Campbell’s franchise-record 14.5 sacks from 2017? (That number, by the way, also happens to be the NFL’s single-season rookie record, set by Jevon Kearse in 1999.)
No, they didn’t expect it. But after watching him for eight games, the coaching staff isn’t one bit surprised that he’s in the conversation about breaking those records.
“I think you’re only seeing the surface, really,” coach Doug Marrone said. “He has the ability to be one of those players who can play at a high level for a long period of time. I think that he’s handled himself really well. I think that Calais Campbell has been a big influence in that.
“[Allen] is going to get so much better. He’s playing well for us, but we really have high expectations for him.”
Allen has had at least one sack in the Jaguars’ past four games. His first on Sunday against Sam Darnold nearly resulted in a turnover. He chased Darnold down and closed on him quickly from behind. The ball popped out of Darnold’s hands when Allen hit him, but it bounced out of bounds before the Jaguars could recover.
That was the first of the Jaguars’ eight sacks. Allen said it was a tone-setter.
“I was hoping he wasn’t going to throw it,” Allen said. “I just wanted to let him feel me. Sack or no sack, I just wanted to hit him and just to be like, ‘We’re coming every play. I don’t care where you’re at. I don’t care how you’re getting out, we’re going to hit you every play.’”
Despite the presence of Ngakoue and Campbell on the roster, it’s Allen who is leading the “Sacksonville” resurgence. The records don’t matter to him, though.
“That’s not my goal,” he said. “It’s a good achievement for myself, but my goal is to win a lot of games. I want to make it all the way to the end and then I’ll be OK. Those are the good achievements for my team so if it happens, it happens.
“But I’m trying to win. I’m trying to win as many games as I can with my team and execute.”