JACKSONVILLE — He knows there are doubters. A lot of them.
Josh Allen doesn't care.
The Jaguars' second-year defensive end who rapidly is emerging as a team leader and spokesman said as much – yet again – Thursday as the Jaguars prepared to play the Tennessee Titans in a key early-season AFC South game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday at 1 p.m.
"A lot of good players left our organization and people were like, 'Oh, they're weak now," Allen said. Little do they know. They're not in the locker room with us. They don't see the guys we have.
"They don't see how well we play together."
The Jaguars, after back-to-back last-place finishes in the AFC South, traded well-known veterans such as defensive end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye and quarterback Nick Foles in the offseason. They then traded defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and safety Ronnie Harrison in the weeks leading to the season, also waiving running back Leonard Fournette.
The Jaguars beat the Indianapolis Colts, 27-20, at TIAA Bank Field this past Sunday in the 2020 regular-season opener. If that victory didn't change national perception, Allen said it doesn't much matter.
"We're a family," he said. "We play together. We play as one. That's how our mindset is. I'm just excited to get going again. … I feel like there's always going to be that doubt when people think about us. That's just the status quo we have to change around here.
"We hear it all the time, since [cornerback] Jalen [Ramsey] left [in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams last season], that we weren't going to be a good team. It's just been getting worse and worse. We're really focused on ourselves, and how we play week in and week out.
"We're not focused on the outside noise."
Allen returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday with a calf injury; Allen left Sunday's victory with cramping and Head Coach Doug Marrone on Wednesday said Allen was kept out of practice that day as a precautionary measure. Jaguars players missing practice Thursday were tight end Tyler Davis (knee), tight end James O'Shaughnessy (scheduled day off) and defensive end Adam Gotsis (scheduled day off).
Allen on quarterback Gardner Minshew II: "I see a superstar. He's a great quarterback. I feel like he has shown that many times. He's going to continue to show that. He has the whole team and the whole organization behind him. That's all you really need as a football player. As long as you have your teammates that support you and are with you every play who want the best for you – and an organization that wants the same as well – what more can somebody ask for you? He has the look. He has the swag. He has the arm. And he has the plays to be who I consider a great quarterback in the NFL. That's my guy."
Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash on Thursday assessed the play Sunday of rookie defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton (third-round selection) and rookie defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson (first round), saying while they started the game "a little out of whack" because of a lack of preseason games each player improved as the game continued. "D-Ham was very stout at the point and used his hands well, which was really good to see," Wash said. "Chaisson was a little bit crazy with his eyes at times [reading the opposing offense], but you see the flashes of what we've seen off the college tape of the athleticism and the ability to be a playmaker. Those two are only going to get better as we keep going and the more games they get underneath their belt."
Wash said he was pleased with the physicality of cornerback CJ Henderson against Indianapolis. The No. 9 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, Henderson was considered by many the drafts' best cover cornerback, but observers questioned his tackling. Henderson registered three pass breakups and an interception against the Colts, but also had two impressive tackles short of the first-down marker. "He's a physical player," Wash said. "We knew he was a willing tackler, but you saw some plays [against Indianapolis] where he was willing to come up and hit some people. You don't see a lot of corners really wanting to throw their body around like CJ did on Sunday. So, that was obviously really good to see about how physical he is in the run game and how he can tackle. The stuff that really popped off the tape is how he's willing to transition, mirror and play the ball when it's in the air. That's a credit to him and the mindset he has and the confidence he has in his ability."
Wash said confidence is high in second-year safety Andrew Wingard, expected to play a key role Sunday with fifth-year veteran Jarrod Wilson having been placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury sustained late Sunday against Indianapolis. "He's just as smart [as Wilson]and communicates really well," Wash said. "We feel really comfortable with Dewey [Wingard] back there.'' Wilson started all 16 games and played all 1,051 defensive snaps for the Jaguars last season, and Head Coach Doug Marrone said early this week he was having one of the better games of his career Sunday before the injury. "The biggest thing you miss is he's been the quarterback back there for the last couple of years," Wash said. "He does a nice job of communicating. If something's jacked up, he gets us on the right stuff."
Wash on Henderson's approach this week after receiving national praise for a standout performance in his debut: "He's far from satisfied. In his mind, he didn't play as well as he could have, which is what we want to hear as a coaching staff. I don't think he's the one, to quote an old-timer, to be "allergic to the big meal.' He's going to continue to improve and he's got a lot of drive in him."