ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Sean Payton, Vance Joseph and the Denver Broncos made their feelings toward Zach Allen very clear in the offseason.
Hours into the start of free agency, the Broncos signed the defensive lineman to a massive three-year, $45.75 million contract. Not only did they show Allen the money, they focused their efforts on him over incumbent Bronco Dre’Mont Jones, who then went on to sign with the Seattle Seahawks.
The early returns in the first two weeks of training camp are very encouraging.
“Man, he’s smart,” Payton stated on Monday, following the team’s 11th practice of camp. “He’s in the right gap. He’s consistent.”
Denver’s new No. 99 on the defensive line has consistently been living in the backfield and chasing down Russell Wilson. When he’s not able to get to Wilson in the backfield, he’s blocking passes at the line of scrimmage. His presence has been felt almost every single day of camp, if not every day.
The 6-foot-5, 285-pound lineman has disrupted Payton’s offense time and time again. The head coach, and offensive play caller, has taken notice.
“We had a player — I’m not comparing this player, they play different positions — we had a player in New Orleans, Trey Hendrickson, that was just a handful with each snap — energy and effort. And Zach’s that way, down in and down out. And really, really consistent,” Payton stated. “It takes a lot of energy, especially when you’re playing inside to play that way. And so, he’s got really good stamina. I’ve been really pleased with him.”
Hendrickson, who is more of a 4-3 defensive end, while Allen’s a 3-4 defensive end, was a monster on the field in his final year in New Orleans in 2020 playing under Payton. Hendrickson racked up 13.5 sacks to go along with 25 quarterback hits and 12 tackles for a loss.
Since Allen plays further inside the defensive line than Hendrickson, it will be difficult for him to put up similar stats as the former Saint, but the way he’s playing the first two weeks of camp is an indication that the Broncos’ $45 million was money well spent on Allen.
Despite playing with J.J. Watt the last few years in Arizona, Allen credits his relentless motor to his upbringing and coaching.
“I think it’s just probably the way I was raised and the way I was taught to play the game. I had a lot of old-school Italian coaches growing up,” he said with a smile on Monday. “Very fortunate for the coaches that I did have and the way they coached me. And even in the NFL, I’ve had a lot of great coaches. So, yeah it’s the way the game’s meant to be played. I’m just trying to do that.”
In fact, his motor began before he even stepped on the football field as his inability to stay still drove his mom crazy “too many times,” he joked after practice.
Allen will face his former team on Friday when the Broncos travel to Arizona for their first preseason game. Like the grinder he is, Allen won’t be focused on a homecoming. Instead, he’s focused on the business trip that it is.
“It’s a business trip,” Allen stated. “I can go back in the offseason and see those people for a more intimate time. This right now, we’re here to work.”