In an NFL season in which rookies have more obstacles than ever standing in their way, it can be critical for first-year players to find veterans to latch onto for support and knowledge..
If there is any player on the Jacksonville Jaguars roster who can relate to rookie defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson, it is his tag-team mate on the edge:
Like Chaisson, Allen was a first-round pick a year ago. Like Chaisson, Allen had lofty expectations set for him from the day he was drafted, with fans, coaches and executives alike hoping he would provide a spark on the edge.
And like Chaisson, Allen went through his moments of growing pains as a rookie. They weren't as defined as Chaisson's current struggles, but he went through many of the same areas of growth and struggle that Chaisson is going through now.
In a big way, this gives Allen a chance to offer pivotal advice to his young teammate. What would that advice sound like? Allen let it be known when asked about it during a media conference on Thursday.
"Just don’t think, just react, just play free, play like you’re playing backyard football and just react," Allen said.
Chaisson, the No. 20 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, has said himself that he isn't getting the job done as a pass rusher like he, or the Jaguars, would have hoped. Through six games, the rookie defensive end has one sack and six pressures. Pro Football Focus has Chaisson with a pass-rush productive rate of 2.6, which ranks 143rd among all edge rushers this season.
In many ways though, Chaisson's slow start likely should have been expected. He was seen as a semi-raw prospect when he left LSU, and his 9.5 career sacks in college show he still had plenty of room to improve before he stepped foot onto an NFL field.
But the Jaguars still have plenty of hope in Chaisson. No player's career is defined by six games, after all, and Chaisson still has the support of Allen and others to get him through this rookie stretch.
"When you overthink and you overanalyze in the game, it tends to slow your game down and you just have to see ball, get ball, see your man and see what he’s doing and just react off of that and just go. That’s something that we’ve been harping on and he’s getting it," Allen said.
"He’s still a rookie, but he’s getting it down and hopefully he’ll have a tremendous game and I think he is.”
Like Chaisson, Allen mostly played in a rotational role as a rookie. He was much more productive through his first six games, recording five sacks and 19 pressures. But Allen did have the benefit of Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue rushing next to him, something Chaisson clearly doesn't have.
But also like Chaisson, Allen was able to get valuable experience early on in his career. Allen didn't have it all figured out through his first six games, but the reps he took in those games helped him finish his rookie year with success. Now, the hope is Chaisson can follow the same path as he continues to get more and more experience under his belt.
"It was big just to get my confidence up. Last year I was fortunate to have Yan[nick Ngakoue] and Calais [Campbell] rushing with me so I took my job a little bit lax right there, so that made it easy for me. But, just [playing] early definitely was a confidence booster for me, just to know that I can play within the scheme and play against other high-caliber players and be successful," Allen said.
"So just playing early is definitely good and that’s something that he has to learn. It’s something that he has to just really accept and just play as hard as he can.”
Chaisson has 10 more games to leave an impression for his rookie season. It is hard to see him ending the year with the same success Allen did last season, but he doesn't have to. Instead, he simply has to show he can follow Allen's advice and continue to make improvements week-by-week.