2020 didn't go the way anyone expected for Josh Allen. Not for him. Not for the Jacksonville Jaguars' staff. And certainly not those around the league who expected Allen to live up to his rookie year Pro Bowl form.
But Allen knows what he has to do to get back on track in 2021. It starts with fixing what derailed his 2020 -- his ability to stay healthy, stay on the field and be available for the Jaguars' defense to unleash him onto opposing quarterbacks.
"For me personally, it’s to stay healthy. It’s to be on the field as long as I can and help my teammates as much as I can," Allen said following Tuesday's organized team activity practice when asked about what he set his goals on this offseason.
"As long as I’m out there on the field, I feel like I can contribute. An improvement from last year is to just get off the ball and have the same mentality every snap. I’m looking forward to that, staying healthy, staying on the field.”
Allen burst onto the scene as a rookie, flashing the talent and production that both he and the Jaguars know he can get back to. It is a form the team didn't see in 2021, but nobody on the Jaguars' defense (sans Myles Jack) played to their potential on defense.
The Jaguars selected Allen No. 7 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft with hopes of him becoming the future of the defense. Allen was a rare first-round hit as a rookie for the Jaguars, becoming the first Jaguars rookie to make the Pro Bowl and setting the franchise rookie sack record at 10.5. Allen also recorded 44 tackles, 23 quarterback hits, 11 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and 49 pressures as a rookie.
Allen's production dipped in 2020 as he dealt with injuries. He played in just eight games and played 397 snaps after appearing in all 16 games and playing 634 snaps as a rookie in 2019. Injuries sapped his ability to both get after the quarterback and stay on the field.
In eight games last season, Allen recorded 13 tackles, 2.5 sacks, two tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hits, and 22 pressures as he was limited due to injuries. Now, the Jaguars and Allen are both looking for a healthy and improved version of Allen to lead the Jaguars' pass-rush in 2021.
Luckily for Allen, the Jaguars and head coach Urban Meyer have made things such as health and explosiveness a priority entering the 2021 offseason. The Jaguars have reshaped the roster's health and training regiments, introducing Meyer's intense vision for the sports performance department.
"With the training staff, it’s definitely a new energy. [Director of Athletic Training Jeff Ferguson] Ferg’s definitely bringing a lot of juice to the training room, like you want to be in there. It’s not a place where we don’t know what to expect," Allen said.
"Guys want to be in there, guys want to laugh, guys want to get treatment. Guys want to be great, like I said, not only for themselves but for the whole team. That starts with taking care of yourself and they’re definitely doing a wonderful job in the training room and also in nutrition. The food’s getting a lot better, it’s getting a lot healthier. Once we have all those things linked in together to develop a culture, a development side of football, it makes it the best. The best of the best.”
The list of players as important to the Jaguars' defense as Allen in 2021 is short. In fact, there may not be a player who holds the fate of the unit in their hands more than Allen. But for him to ensure he can hit his potential, he knows his biggest improvement has to be availability, not ability.