It was Shakespeare who wrote, “some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
Josh Allen has always been great, blessed with a talent that at least in part is God-given. He achieved some greatness, working in college to become a first-round pick, which came to fruition when the Jacksonville Jaguars selected him No. 7 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft.
But now the Jaguars are thrusting greatness upon him as well, asking the defensive end to elevate himself and subsequently the defense.
“I expect greatness from him,” Defensive Coordinator Joe Cullen declared boldly following Friday’s training camp practice.
For this to happen, Allen is working harder than ever, per his recount, to achieve the greatness that is being asked of him.
“I train. I train my butt off to be, the way I look, the way I play, my stamina. I train my butt off to be where I’m at today physically,” said Allen, following Friday’s training camp practice.
“Naturally, instinctively that’s how I beat a man. [Then] mentally it’s that mindset on ‘ok I wanna get this move. This the move I’m gonna do and then when I go, I’m gonna rely on the tools I pride myself for. To use that, to go out there.’ So it’s fun. Especially when you’re working hard, man I never pushed myself, like I pushed myself so hard this offseason training with Coach Jason Smith. And I just feel so great, I feel like I’m durable. I feel great.”
Feeling great is the first step to being great, which is what is expected of him this season. The former Pro-Bowler—the first rookie in Jaguars’ to be given the honor thanks to 43 tackles and 10.5 sacks—had a self-described down year in 2020 with 13 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Injuries kept him off the field and little push up front resulted in even less pass rush, which is where Allen is meant to shine.
His path back to greatness means going back to the position that made him great in the first place. Returning to a standup edge is possible in Cullen’s new defensive scheme.
“I’m back to where I can just move around and I can disguise and get back to the swag. I feel like defense is all about swagger. And I feel like when you’re moving around and [the offense] don’t know what that person is gonna do, that’s always a good—like to me, I love that. Like ‘ok this dude don’t know what I’m about to do but I’m about to kill him regardless.’”
Cullen can “expect greatness” and Allen can “feel great” but the word itself is vague without markers. What would it actually look like on the field for Josh Allen? What would it look like for the Jacksonville Jaguars as a result? If you ask Allen, there’s no hesitation as the answer is clear.
“All-Pro, being an All-Pro, being a Pro Bowler, making it to the Super Bowl, being Defensive Player of the Year. That’s elite, that’s greatness, that’s where you leave a legacy, that’s where you leave your mark on the organization. That’s what my mindset is on and that’s what everybody’s mindset is on.”
Despite being in only his third year, Allen is seen as a leader and pillar of this defense. Pushing him to grow will force those around him to come along as well. So as Josh Allen works towards those clear and attainable goals, he’s elevating the game of every single one of his Jacksonville Jaguars teammates as well.
The Shakespeare quote has stood the test of time because it’s applicable to so many people and cases. But there is another quote, one that floats around football and pushes players, coaches and teams that are trying to reach the pinnacle.
Vince Lombardi, legendary Green Bay Packers coach, told his team “we are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence.”
As the Jacksonville Jaguars look to make the ultimate turnaround, going from worst to, well, ideally first but at least climb out of the bottom tier of the league, they’ll lean on those like Josh Allen. Guys who can be great, and will make their team that as well.
“If we keep developing and playing and keep practicing like this, like I said, I think the sky’s going to be the limit for all of us,” promised Allen. “Coach Cullen is just my guy. I’m honed in and whatever he says, I’m going to do it for him. I trust the process and he trusts that I’m going to live out that process for him, so I’m ready for it.”