The Broncos signed defensive end Zach Allen, 25, to a three-year, $45.75 million deal on Wednesday. The deal includes $32.5 million in guaranteed money. Allen will continue to play under defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who was his coordinator in Arizona for all four of his professional seasons after being chosen by the CArdinals in the third round of the 2019 draft.
Allen is a versatile defender, but he makes his presence felt more in the running game than the passing game. He’s grown into a stout defender who rarely loses ground and can get off of blocks with ease.
We’re looking back at his Week 5 matchup with the future NFC champion Eagles, an we’re starting with the Cardinals’ first defensive play of the game. Allen is one-on-one with Isaac Seumalo, who is in line for a big payday this offseason, and controls the rep from start to finish.
Allen engages, then jumps toward the hole when he sees the running back charging toward the hole. Allen was in position for a run stuff. But the quarterback still has the ball so he disengages and bursts upfield. He’s a little lucky that Jalen Hurts decided to bail out of the pocket, but getting the hit isn’t the point. The point is that at every single instant of this play, Allen was exactly where he wanted to be.
The next play was a screen away from Allen, so he wasn’t involved in the play, but here’s the third play of the game:
This one might not rile you up like the first, but it’s another good rep. He stands his ground against a really good guard and helps to bottle up a run for a short gain. It isn’t flashy, but consistent plays like these are part of the reason he’s making more than $15 million per year.
Here he is disengaging from the backside of a run to make the tackle:
On 5.5% of run plays that Allen was on the field in 2022, he made a tackle for no gain or for a loss, per SIS. Only one NFL defensive tackle had a better rate. It was Aaron Donald at 5.8%.
Here’s another gem:
Allen disengages from blockers remarkably easily, but he also drives blockers where he wants them to go. You can see him move Seumalo in the clip above, but he also moves Landon Dickerson to block up another hole earlier in the next clip. It’s a subtle movement, but you can see the running back not knowing which way to go.
And here he is bullying Dickerson into the backfield and then contributing to the run stuff:
And here he is bullying Dickerson again, and then tripping up the running back:
He’s disrupting all of these runs in the same game. Here’s the very next play after the run above:
It’s nothing special. But he holds his ground through an initial double-team, then takes away the B gap while compressing the A gap and reducing the running lane. It’s not worthy of going on the highlight reel, but it’s another good, clean rep.
Here’s another solid play that will never be noticed:
Yes it was a run that broke free, but Allen erased any cutback lane by driving into the backfield.
Nobody bats 1.000, and that’s true of Allen. In this particular game, he came pretty close. Just to prove he isn’t unbeatable, here’s a rep where he didn’t make a play.
He gets bounced by the double team and can’t quite get back inside to make the tackle. You can’t expect anybody to make that play.
But just think about how many plays Allen shut down in this game. It was, admittedly, one of the best games of his 2022 season, but it also came against the future NFC champions and an offensive line that powered the league’s fifth-leading rushing attack.
Now let’s hit the best of Allen in the passing game.
It’s an unconventional sack, but it’s a sack nonetheless.
The first clip, way up there at the top, is probably Allen’s best pass rush of the day. This one is second. After that, there’s a dropoff.
Allen is a solid pass rusher. He had 5.5 sacks in 13 games played in 2022—he’s averaged three missed games per season over the last three years—which is a good number for a defensive lineman. It isn’t necessarily a number that jumps off the page.
The pass rush number that does jump off the page is Allen’s quarterback hits. He hit opposing passers 15 times in 2022, the second-most of any defensive lineman in the NFL. On those plays, he was a step away from a sack, at least in theory, and you could argue he’s due for some positive regression in the sack column. His 10.4% pass rush win rate is solid—ranking 45th out of 142 defensive linemen with 100 pass rush attempts, per PFF—but for a player with a premium salary, it’s nothing special. For what it’s worth, Dre’Mont Jones ranked 14th with a 14.6% win rate.
Here’s another pass rush attempt that didn’t amount to much.
The Cardinals moved Allen around the defense a fair amount—about 15% of his snaps came on the edge—but he was at his best in the interior. He doesn’t have the speed and bend to be overly threatening as an edge rusher. He spent almost all of his time inside in the Eagles game, and this play was the closest we’ll get to a look at him out wide:
It’s not a true pass-rush attempt from the edge, but you can at least get a glimpse of what he looks like when he tries to bend around the corner. Not a great look though.
Vance Joseph also liked him as a stand-up rusher from the interior. That’s a look we saw in this game.
It didn’t result in anything, but he was double-teamed so what can you expect?
You may have noticed him jump up and try to bat the pass. That’s a strength of Allen’s, and it might be his biggest strength on passing downs.
In the next play, Allen realizes he isn’t getting to the quarterback, realizes the quarterback is throwing over his head and then gets a hand up. Unfortunately, nothing comes of it.
Later in the game, his luck turns.
Allen tied for the league lead for a defensive lineman with seven batted balls at the line of scrimmage. On third downs, a batted ball can be as good as a sack.
We’ll wrap up with a look back at Allen’s best plays of 2022:
Click here for our Film Room on new right tackle Mike McGlinchey.
Click here to see our Film Room on new left guard Ben Powers.