‘Try to Be the Best Defensive Player in the League’: Jaguars’ Josh Allen Reflects on Year 2 Mindset

John Shipley

"I'm not trying to be considered a great pass rusher, I'm trying to be considered a great defensive player."

Those are words spoken by Jacksonville Jaguars edge defender Josh Allen during his virtual press conference Wednesday. It has been the mantra Allen has held since the day he was first drafted by the Jaguars and likely long before then as well. He does not want to be a good player. He wants to be great.

Allen, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, exploded onto the scene as a rookie. He became the first-ever Jaguars rookie to make a Pro Bowl appearance as a result of a season in which he racked up 10.5 sacks. That figure led the Jaguars and all NFL rookies, and also set a Jaguars rookie record. 

Throw in Allen's two forced fumbles, 11 tackles for loss and 23 quarterback hits in just 60% of Jacksonville's defensive snaps, and it is an understatement to say he had a successful rookie season. But for the 23-year-old Allen, his sights are set much higher than any of the milestones he reached in 2019.

"Try to be the best defensive player in the league," Allen said Wednesday when asked about his own goals and expectations for himself in 2020. 

"That is, you know, high standards. I had a high standard last year, and I kind of achieved that goal. But now, I set the bar really high for myself and I'm looking to stay there and stay at the top, and I'm gonna push myself as much as I could push each year. And this year, I am not holding anything back, man. I'm coming to it as best as I can."

Allen's mindset entering year two is key considering it is a year in which he is set to be Jacksonville's most important defender following the departures of Calais Campbell and Jalen Ramsey and the uncertainty surrounding fellow edge defender Yannick Ngakoue. One way or another, Allen will be leaned on as Jacksonville's new star impact defender, and this is a challenge the second-year pro is eager to attack. 

"I feel like coming in and [in[ practice what I did so far, man, I feel like my game has grown. I feel like I'm getting more comfortable," Allen said Wednesday. But it's still a lot I got to learn, but I got high standards this year. And just know, I'm shooting for the top."

The loss of Campbell will be especially important for Allen to help offset. Not only was Campbell a terror on the field for Jacksonville, earning All-Pro honors once and making the Pro Bowl in all three of his seasons in Jacksonville, but it will be his off-field impact the Jaguars will miss.

Allen and Campbell were a particularly close duo, with the Jaguars' elder taking the top draft pick under his wing in what would turn out to be his final year with the team. But if Campbell's final contribution to the Jaguars was to help groom Allen as both a pass-rusher and a leader, Jacksonville will be in a good position moving forward.

"I mean, the biggest thing I know just from being a leader in college, you gotta prove yourself first. You can't just claim -- you can't self-claim yourself as a leader without people really knowing how hard you work and how much you push your players," Allen said. "So right now, man, I'm really just focused upon, you know, getting myself together again, getting myself right and being the best me I can be. And then my teammates, you know, hopefully can see that. See I'm working hard and just see I'm trying to be the best I can be."

That specific part of Allen's mindset entering year two is some wisdom Campbell helped pass down to him. Allen knows if he does things the right way and sets an example for others to follow, whether it is in meeting rooms, the locker room, the practice field or on Sundays, then eventually things will fall into place. 

"So one thing Calais always told me was, 'you work on yourself, the people will follow,'" Allen said. "So, you know, that's all I've been doing. I'm just trying to be the best me, working out as hard as I can every day, practicing as hard as I can, studying as hard as I can every day, and hopefully it will pay off and hopefully my teammates can see that."

Allen is already held in high regard within TIAA Bank Field. It is hard to find a coach on the team who won't rave about him, while rookie first-round pick K'Lavon Chaisson noted earlier this week that he aspires to be seen around the facility in the same light Allen is in. 

As long as Allen continues to be himself on and off the field, he should have no issues in taking the reins of Jacksonville's leadership position on defense, nor should he have many issues in making another large impact on the field. 

Allen's mindset entering year two is one of preparedness. He is ready to prove that his rookie year was just a preview of what is soon to come, and he is ready to prove he can help the Jaguars become a winning football team. 

"I'm just trying to win, that's my mentality this year," Allen said. "Individual success comes with team success and that's what I'm real big on this year and hopefully my teammates you know, see that and we can just hop on the same board and that's how I become a leader.

"You know, I gotta do what I got to do. They brought me here for a reason. And I'm just doing what I can do to help my teammates and help myself and help this organization get to the point that we need to be. And that's all I can do. You know, my teammates put trust in me, I put trust into them and if they ever need to count on me, they can count on me, I will be there for them on and off the field. So I'm, I'm excited, I'm comfortable, and I feel like I can do that . I feel like I can help lead this team."

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