“The great pass rushers I’ve been around keep bringing it every down and don’t get frustrated,” Cunningham said. “They may not get one for two or three games, and then all of a sudden, they get them in bunches, and he’s grown up to accept that.
“Jared’s really a good athlete. He’s a lot like (Miami’s) Jason Taylor. He can get through the gaps on the line, what we say, ‘skinny,’ and that makes him very unusual. He’s got real long stride after he gets off an offensive tackle, and he’s able to accelerate off the block.
“Right now, Jared is really putting on a show.”
The anatomy of a sack starts six days before the game when Allen begins studying film of the left tackle he’ll be facing. He’s faced some good ones this season, including Minnesota’s Bryant McKinnie, San Diego’s Marcus McNeill and Cincinnati’s Levi Jones, a former first-round pick and six-year starter who was so helpless against Allen, the Bengals pulled him.
“Film study is huge because a lot of offensive tackles get in a rhythm,” Allen said. “On their third step, they might always punch, so you can time your steps, knowing what they’re going to do. You have to know what your man is going to do before he does it. That way you can have a game plan how you want to rush him, how to use your 18 rushes so you can get there on the 19th.”
Before every play, Allen measures his steps from the tackle.
“It starts with your width from the tackle, how you want the tackle to set,” Allen said. “I try to dictate how that tackle is going to set by how close or how far away I am from him.”
Then comes the snap of the ball … Where Thomas was an all-out speed rusher, Allen is more of a technician with his hands.
“If I can beat him with the get off, I already know what I can do,” Allen said. “But if not, there are hand techniques you’ve got to use. I’m more of a leverage, technique rusher than a pure speed rusher. I try to defeat him with hand rushes … knowing your strengths and weaknesses is a huge part of it.”
Don’t forget, those tackles have studied Allen’s moves all week, too. So he can’t be a one-trick pony.
“If I plan on speed-rushing a guy and he over-sets me, I’ve got to have a counter move, which is to go inside on him,” he said. “If a guy jumps straight back on me when I’m wanting to be a speed rusher, then I’m going to bull-rush him. … You can’t have a pre-set in your mind, you always have to be working on the counter move, because sometimes it’s the second or third move that gets you there.”
And there’s often more than one blocker to beat. Teams often keep a tight end next to the tackle to double-team an elite pass rusher, and running backs will stay in the backfield for more protection.
“If a back is chipping or someone is coming over to help,” Allen said, “someone is going to be out of position because they’re not playing their normal technique.
“When they start double-teaming you and chipping you, that means, (a) there’s one less person in the (pass) route, and (b) someone has a one-on-one. In the game of football, you’ve got 10 other friends out there, and they can’t just concentrate on you.”
Indeed, opponents’ preoccupation with Allen has helped the Chiefs roll up 19 sacks, second in the NFL to the New York Giants’ 21. It’s no accident that left end Tamba Hali’s 2 1/2 sacks have come since Allen’s return from a two-game suspension for receiving two DUIs in 2006.