Jaguars DE Allen focused on team-wide improvement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Josh Allen stood near the middle of Field 18 at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex Thursday, holding his son and answering questions while fans in the nearby stands called for an AFC teammate's attention.

In the middle of a response, Allen turned toward the stands and asked "are they calling my name?"

They were not. Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt was walking near the fence, drawing the pleas of fans desperate for his autograph.

"See, I'm not big time yet," Allen said with a laugh. "You see what I mean? One day. One day."

Allen's rookie season couldn't be captured any better. The defensive end's 10.5-sack campaign seemingly went unnoticed until Monday, when he was added to the AFC's roster as a replacement for Kansas City defensive end Frank Clark, who is instead preparing for Super Bowl LIV.

Initially a snub, Allen arrived as a promoted alternate, taking in the entire Pro Bowl experience by spending the full amount of allotted time for media availability answering questions and enjoying the company of his family Thursday.

It's the ideal capper (other than a Super Bowl trip) to a productive rookie season, one that rivaled the play of a much more heralded fellow rookie, San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa. In fact, their numbers are fairly comparable. Allen finished with 44 tackles, 10.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2019, while Bosa posted a rookie campaign of 47 tackles, 9.0 sacks, one interception and one forced fumble.

We've heard much, much more about Bosa, a product of his team's success in winning the NFC Championship. Allen deserves credit, too, but he's not worried about the opinions of others.

"You know, you can't please everybody," Allen told "People already have their mind setup about what they want to like and who they like, and what can I do about that but keep playing my game and just have my numbers speak for themselves?"

Allen's team experienced a tumultuous campaign in 2019, forced to endure instability at quarterback and drama associated with displeased cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who ultimately forced his way out of town via mid-season trade. There was also the firing of executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin, which came on the heels of Jaguars complaining publicly about the organization's operation under Coughlin.

The Jaguars responded positively, appearing rejuvenated in winning their final two games of the season. It was enough to preserve the job of head coach Doug Marrone, a development for which Allen is thankful, considering he's had little stability in his career in the past.

"Security. Just having somebody that's gonna be there for you," Allen said of the importance of Marrone's retention. "Because I had a change every year in my career. I never got really close with anybody or really close with coaches, so it was like, once I figured out he was going to be here, all of my coaches were gonna be here, that affected me. That made me want to be more connected to them."

Now it's all about building on Jacksonville's positive late-season momentum -- and for Allen to evolve from wide-eyed rookie to leader.

"I want to take that next step," Allen said. "I want to affect my team more, I want to play a bigger role for my team and be a leader for my team. Just start playing as a team instead of -- you know, I don't think guys have done it, but I don't want guys to play for individual success, I want guys to play for team success. ... I feel like once your team is good, the individual is good. I want to help guys hone into that goal and that mindset and I feel like if we get that, we have the players, we just gotta be committed to one goal and that's it."

Perhaps a year from now, fans will be clamoring for Allen, the newest marquee name in the NFL. For now, though, it's about enjoying his first Pro Bowl and preparing to work toward greater goals -- as a team.

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