Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Week 6 is about the time when we in the media start assessing the statistical performances of players who are paid a lot of money to, well, perform statistically. So, we feel professionally bound to point out that Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen -- who signed a contract this offseason that guarantees him $31 million -- has amassed two sacks thus far, tying him for 35th place in the league. (That production puts Allen on pace for 6.4 sacks this season, if you're into such projections. We're not, but again, journalistic obligations. Or something.)
Anyone who has watched the Vikings this season can attest Allen has been a disruptive force. He leads the team with 14 quarterback hurries and, more important, has opened opportunities for other players to make a big impact.
Often such sentiments are used as excuses for underperforming players, but it's fair to attribute at least two huge plays this season to Allen's presence.
Twice, cornerback Antoine Winfield has blitzed from the left side of the defense -- opposite of Allen, who plays right end -- and enjoyed an unimpeded path to the quarterback. Unblocked as the offense focused its attention on Allen, Winfield managed to sack and strip the ball from Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme and New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees.
Winfield returned Delhomme's fumble for a touchdown and set up a score for the Vikings offense after sacking Brees.
Would the Panthers and/or Saints have had a man designated to block a weak-side blitzer had Allen not been on the field? We'll never know that for sure. But his presence certainly made each offense more susceptible to the blitz.
"You want to make them slide to me and Kevin [Williams]," Allen said. "Give us the double teams and the chips. It opens people up. I don't care how [the quarterback] gets on the ground. I just care that he's on the ground and we get points out of it."
Allen managed at least 7.5 sacks in each of his four years with Kansas City, including an NFL-high 15.5 in 2007, and said he is not worried about this season's total.
"I'm getting to the quarterbacks and I'm hitting them," Allen said. "They just don't have the ball. But I look at the talent around me on this defense and I know [sacks] are going to come in bunches. I'm having a blast playing here. I was joking with the guys and saying it's almost tougher when you play with a bunch of playmakers. You have to be on your p's and q's. A half-step difference, and somebody else has already made the play."