Zach Allen hits grindstone hard, ready to capitalize on late 2020 success

Aug 3, 2021, 2:20 PM | Updated: 3:19 pm
Cardinals DE Zach Allen goes through drills during minicamp on June 8, 2021, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake...
Cardinals DE Zach Allen goes through drills during minicamp on June 8, 2021, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

GLENDALE — After a somewhat quiet start to the season and a brief stint on the injured reserve in 2020, Arizona Cardinals defensive end Zach Allen strung together a handful of solid games to close out the year.

Over his final three starts of the season, Allen recorded a sack, 18 tackles, two of which were for losses, and a quarterback hit. He had put up similar numbers in his first 10 games of the season.

It was evident Allen was finding his groove just as time was running out on 2020.

So instead of taking some R&R early this offseason, Allen went right back to work, hoping to encapsulate his 2020 success and have it pour over into this season.

And he had company.

“I was just more focused on I wanted to keep the momentum towards the end of the year last year,” Allen said Tuesday, “It started to click for me a little bit those last few games. I took two days off and I was back full-go, literally I was working 8-10 hour days and it wasn’t just myself.

“Michael [Dogbe], Rashard [Lawrence], Leki [Fotu], we all stayed together so we had a really good collective. We were working all offseason and we just wanted to set the standard for ourselves. We were tired of being called young guys, young guy mistakes, we thought this is our time now, especially when you bring in a guy like J.J.”

With playoff and Super Bowl aspirations, especially after the Cardinals’ 2020 finish, the group of linemen put in four-hour workouts in the morning before watching film for about an hour or two and ending the day with one more workout of at least an hour.

The proof is in the pudding as Allen looks noticeably bigger but much more leaner in his third NFL season.

“It’s kinda like when you rebuild a house, you wanna just tear it all down and rebuild back up,” he said. “I dropped about 6% body fat this offseason. People are saying I look leaner but I weigh heavier.”

Adding to Allen’s determination this offseason was the team’s addition of defensive end J.J. Watt. With Watt’s track record, Allen understands there’s a new standard for this team.

And while Watt remains on the PUP list, Allen has already seeing the impact the three-time Defensive Player of the Year can bring to his career.

“It’s been great, I’ve been able to kinda use it in practices and it’s already working for me so I’m very fortunate to have him here,” Allen said. “I think we all are. We’re very excited for when he does come back and just to work with him in game.”

Allen’s offseason workload could pay dividends for the Cardinals this season, especially with Jordan Phillips easing his way back into camp after missing seven of the last eight games of 2020 due to injury.

Above all else, Watt and Allen’s time with his teammates have left the defensive lineman in a good place as Week 2 of training camp unfolds.

“This is the most fun I’ve had playing football, you know this group,” Allen said. “Usually during camp you just have your headphones in. I haven’t listened to any music or anything, I’ve just been hanging out with the guys.

“This is definitely probably the tightest team I’ve been around, easily in the NFL, but even compared to college or high school. It’s a very exciting time.”

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