We've spent a fair amount of time already this season tracking the progress of Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, who has put himself on an early-season pace to challenge some of the best scoring seasons by a receiver in NFL history. So it's only fair and appropriate to note that another NFC North player has gotten off to a similar start.
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared leads the NFL with 8.5 sacks after five games, an accomplishment in itself after a subpar season in 2010 by his standards. Never in seven previous seasons has Allen piled up as many sacks after five games. Clearly motivated by our offseason suggestion that he'll have a tough road to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Allen has at least given himself a chance to approach the league record for sacks in a season.
Bear with me here. I realize we are less than a third of the way through the 2011 season. I still think it's worth noting, as the chart shows, that Allen has the same number of sacks through five games that record-holder Michael Strahan had on the way to 22.5 sacks for the New York Giants in 2001. (Including the one Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre gave him in Week 17. Wait, did I say that?)
Meanwhile, in 1984, New York Jets pass-rusher Mark Gastineau had nine sacks through five games on the way to 22 for the season.
Sacks can come for any number of reasons, and frankly, good fortune is one of them. It's quite possible that Allen could maintain his elite level of play, stay healthy for the rest of the season and come nowhere close to the record. We'll track it as long as he's in striking distance. If nothing else, Allen has already rebounded nicely from his relatively quiet 11-sack season in 2010.
"He’s off to a great start," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "To have 8.5 sacks at this point of the season, he’s on a tremendous pace. But I think it goes back to some of the things he did this offseason and then reflecting back on what happened … the season before, and he really went into the offseason determined not to duplicate what had happened in 2010. His dedication, his renewed interest to being the best defensive end in the National Football League, really encouraged him to play the way he is playing right now. He was not happy with the way things went last season for him personally."
To be continued ...