Zach Allen integral to Arizona Cardinals’ pass-rushing positives
TEMPE — The Arizona Cardinals defense has had its moments three weeks into the season.
It’s looked out of sorts at times, allowing early leads in each of Arizona’s 2022 matchups. Other instances, oftentimes later in games, the unit has flashed its potential.
But in those highs and lows, defensive lineman Zach Allen remains a constant presence for the Cardinals.
“I think Zach’s gotten better each year,” defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Thursday. “Obviously, he’s gotten bigger and stronger from his rookie year. That was Zach’s main issue. It wasn’t ability, it wasn’t about how he played or his smarts, it was just his body. He’s changed his body and he’s making more plays in the trenches. That’s where he has to play.
“As a rusher, he’s winning. The ball’s coming out fairly fast but he’s winning his one-on-ones for the most part. Zach is one of our guys that we count on playing good each week and he’s done that for us.”
Per ESPN, Allen sits tied for second among NFL defensive tackles in terms of highest pass rush win rate at 19%.
That’s better than the Kansas City Chiefs’ Chris Jones (18%) and the New York Giants’ Dexter Lawrence (17%) and only trails the Los Angeles Rams’ Aaron Donald (25%). Granted, he’s far from seen the same rate of being double-teamed as those established rushers.
Double team rate at defensive tackle (x) by pass rush win rate at defensive tackle (y), updated through Week 3.
-Even after a bit of a down week, Aaron Donald is still aaaaallllll alone.
-Curious to see if that larger second tier continues. Has been small group in past. pic.twitter.com/egic9D4yLi
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) September 29, 2022
Allen’s work in the pass-rushing department has helped yield the best win rate as a whole across the NFL at 55% through three weeks of play, per ESPN’s statistics.
“It’s just guys doing their job and stuff like that,” Allen said last week. “We’ve got a lot of talent in the room across the board.
“Everybody that’s inside and outside can rush and they can do it from any position. That’s something that we really focus on and I think it will definitely come together.”
And while the sack totals aren’t quite there for Allen or the team for that matter, with J.J. Watt recording the only two sacks for Arizona, the discrepancy lies more with how opposing offenses are attacking Arizona’s defense.
“I think the rush is fine. As far as guys winning, it’s happening,” Joseph said. “The ball’s coming out fairly fast. When that’s happening with pressure, you like that, because now it’s a tackle for a short gain.
“The rush is getting better and better each week and … rush and coverage, it’s a marriage. The better the coverage, the better the rush is going to be. Once we link up in both areas, it’s going to look better.”
Allen will need to be that same consistent presence for the Cardinals in Week 4 with injuries to starters Rashard Lawrence and Watt impacting the defensive line.
Watt did not practice for a second straight day due to a calf injury that hampered him last week, though Joseph said he wasn’t overly concerned with the lineman’s status. Lawrence underwent surgery on his hand following the team’s Week 3 loss to the Rams and has already been ruled out by head coach Kliff Kingsbury.