JACKSONVILLE – Josh Allen likes his situation.
It's new and familiar at the same time. And it has the Jaguars' defensive end excited about his third NFL season.
"I feel like we're playing back to what got us here," Allen said Tuesday following Day 8 practice at 2021 Organized Team Activities presented by Baptist Health.
Allen, the No. 7 overall selection by the Jaguars in the 2019 NFL Draft, spent his first two NFL seasons playing defensive end in a 4-3 defense. He and 2020 first-round selection K'Lavon Chaisson likely will play standup outside linebacker far more in a scheme that is expected to emphasize 3-4 concepts moving forward under new defensive coordinator Joe Cullen.
It's a move that could benefit Allen, who played standup linebacker extensively at the University of Kentucky – as well as Chaisson and veteran defensive end Dawuane Smoot, all of whom could play outside standing up after playing mostly end in the former scheme.
"We're playing what got us here, so going back to those habits, going back to those traits, I feel like it's a good sign for both of us – Smoot as well," Allen said. "I'm just excited to see us put pads on so we can really put that to use and make a lot of plays.
"We're all making plays so as long as we all continue to do that, no matter who we have out there, we'll be straight."
Allen, expected to be a leader on and off the field this season, spoke extensively this week about a new era under Head Coach Urban Meyer. He also spoke of a defensive front seven that must improve dramatically against the run and as a pass-rushing unit.
"Last year was last year," Allen said. "We have a whole new different group, we have a whole new different scheme, we have a whole new different coaching staff that's going to help us get to where we need. Game one, we're going to get right and we're going to apply a lot more pressure.
"We're all going to get better for that, and I can't wait."
The Jaguars last season ranked 30th in the NFL against the run and 31st in sacks. With Meyer placing a priority on improving the front, the Jaguars in recent months have traded for nose tackle Malcom Brown from the New Orleans Saints, drafted Southern California nose tackle Jay Tufele in Round 4 and signed Jihad Ward from the Baltimore Ravens and Roy Robertson-Harris from the Chicago Bears as unrestricted free agents.
"We just love playing for each other," Allen said. "Even off the field, we link up and we stay with that unit. It's all one. It's not a lot of separate goals. We all came together, we all figure out what we have to do, we all figure out how we're going to do it, and that's just how we bond and that's how we're going to communicate. It's one big family and we're just going to continue to get better week in and week out. I just love this group. I think we're going to be shooting for the stars soon."
Allen's 2020 season in a sense reflected the Jaguars' season. The team sustained a slew of injuries, losing 15 consecutive games after a Week 1 victory over Indianapolis. Allen, after making the Pro Bowl as a rookie when he set a Jaguars rookie record with 10.5 sacks, missed eight games in 2020 with a knee injury and finished with 2.5 sacks – making his focus entering his third season clear and simple.
"For me personally, it's to stay healthy," he said. "It's to be on the field as long as I can and help my teammates as much as I can. 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, like many teammates in recent weeks, praised a new culture under Meyer – who won three collegiate national championships during a 17-year college coaching career: "It's win and win now. It's one of the main things he preaches every day. This is not a two-, three-, seven-year plan. This is a plan that we're going to win a Super Bowl. We have a lot of guys who are motivated. We have a lot of guys who are willing to go out there and just lay it out there on the line. We have coaches are doing the same. We have coaches who have our back. We just have to go out there and plays. That's what I'm most excited about with Coach Meyer. I can't wait to see it." More Allen, "It's just an all-in mentality. If you're not an all-in player, if you're not somebody that wants to compete, who wants to get better not only for yourself but for your teammates … it's a culture where we have to move on and we have to get the guys that are willing to sacrifice, that are willing to win, and that are willing to just give it their all not only for themselves but for their teammates. That's just what he's bringing out of people and that's what the players expect."
Allen: "It's definitely just a start over. It's a start from scratch. Not only do we have a fresh coaching staff, we have a fresh team. We still have a young team, and we still have a team that's willing to go out there and compete every play. As long as we keep developing on that, I think we're going to be fine."