EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — There haven’t been many blocking schemes Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen hasn’t seen much in his 10-year NFL career. Teams have attempted to slow Allen, one of the top pass-rushing threats in the league, many ways.
There is one scheme Allen rarely gets to face: one-on-one.
Allen leads the league in sacks since his rookie year in 2004 with 118 sacks and was a half-sack shy of the single-season record two years. Allen has faced double-teams and gets chip blocks often. What he doesn’t get much is the chance to go against an opposing left tackle one-on-one.
Of course, most teams don’t have left tackles like the Cleveland Browns, who come to Minnesota this week. Joe Thomas has been a Pro Bowl tackle each of his first six seasons in the league and is a three-time All-Pro.
“He’s a good player, good dude and I’m excited,” Allen said this week. “I think the biggest thing is you can anticipate some one-on-ones. First of all, we’ve got to stop the run. Honestly it doesn’t matter if we can’t get in third-and-longs, then we’re not going to have pass-rush opportunities. But it is a game like this where you’re going up against a fellow Pro Bowler and stuff like that, and a guy that I know and have built a relationship with over the years. I’m excited to see who’s going to win on each given play.”
Thomas hasn’t allowed a sack this season, according to Pro Football Focus, while the rest of the Cleveland line has allowed 11 sacks through two games. Thomas, who allowed three sacks all of last season, has given up seven pressures and three hits to the quarterback according to Pro Football Focus.
Allen and Thomas have met only once previous in the regular season, the season opener in 2009. They’ve matched up against each other in the Pro Bowl as well and Allen will see plenty of Thomas this weekend.
He’s just hoping Thomas isn’t bringing any of his friends to the meeting.
“You get a couple shots here and there through the game, but consistently there’s not too many of them,” Allen said of getting one-on-one chances. “I watch a lot of film on Joe and they leave him on an island quite a bit, and rightfully so. The guy is, if not the top offensive tackle in the league, he’s definitely one of them.”
Allen’s previous matchup with the 6-foot-6, 312-pound Thomas didn’t go Allen’s way. He was held without a sack, but Minnesota won the game. It was Allen’s only career game against Cleveland, one of four teams he has yet to register a sack against.
“I try to go out every week and just do whatever I’ve got to do to win a football game, and try to be the best,” Allen told reporters. “But I appreciate you pointing that out.”
Allen had a big strip-sack of Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler last week, leading to Brian Robison’s 61-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Allen has one sack this season — a sack against Detroit was later taken away — and he’s faced his usual array of blocking.
“Not very often,” coach Leslie Frazier said of Allen getting one-on-one chances. “You look at last week and all the chips that he got. If they do single-block him, it’s a lot of getting the ball out fast. Not very often they leave him alone unless they’re getting the ball out fast. We don’t see a lot of one-on-ones throughout a game with him.”
But Allen feels the chances will come this weekend and is excited for another meeting with Thomas. And this time, Allen will have the home crowd on his side.
“You kind of nullify a hard count with the crowd and you just get that energy and excitement,” Allen said. “It’s just always fun being at home, you know. You feel like you got them on their heels versus when you’re in an opponent’s stadium you can hear everything. You try to guess watching the play, ‘Is it on one, is it on two?’ and really try to get off. So, here at the dome, that energy and the onus is on them to communicate. The onus is on them to get the snap count and we just go. It definitely helps.”