Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen squishes the Miami Dolphins

Josh Allen, the first-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, dominated the Miami Dolphins in the first half of Thursday’s preseason game.

The Jacksonville Jaguars got a good look at what their new defensive weapon can do against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday.

Early in the first quarter, with the Dolphins facing a 3rd-and-3 from their own 30-yard line, Miami ran a draw play with running back Kalen Ballage. Josh Allen, the Jaguars’ first-round pick in April’s draft, quickly went around tight end Dwayne Allen and got to Ballage just as he was receiving the handoff. The running back was tackled for a five-yard loss and the Dolphins were forced to punt the ball away.

That play was only the highlight of a first half for the rookie defensive end who left the Jaguars excited about what he can add to their front line this season. Allen played most of the first half, finishing with four tackles, two of them for a loss, while also getting two hits on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. He also tackled Ballage for a three-yard loss on a pass play midway through the second quarter.

The 6-foot-5 Allen was widely projected to be a top-five pick back in April after leading Kentucky to their best record in 40 years, winning the Chuck Bednarik Award as the top defensive player in college football and SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Fortunately for the Jaguars, he fell to them at the seventh pick and they decided he was too good to pass up, adding him to their already fearsome defensive line.

In 2017, the Jaguars gave up the second-fewest yards and points in the NFL and were second in the league with 55 sacks. They finished 10-6 that season and advanced all the way to the AFC Championship game, where they suffered a narrow loss to the New England Patriots after going into the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead. But in 2018, while they still ranked fourth in points allowed, the defensive line fell back to 22nd in sacks. Behind this sharp drop-off and the poor play of now-departed quarterback Blake Bortles, the Jaguars went 5-11 and finished last in the AFC South. Bortles is gone, replaced by former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles.

Allen is joining a line that already includes Pro Bowlers Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue, and so far through three preseason games, he’s fit right in. He played 20 snaps in the Jaguars’ first game against the Baltimore Ravens on Aug. 8, tackling running back Gus Edwards for a two-yard loss on the Ravens’ first offensive play. Last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, Allen didn’t have as big of an impact and finished with just one quarterback hit in 21 plays.

The Jaguars defense suffocated the Dolphins in the first half Thursday at Hard Rock Stadium. They forced the Dolphins to go three-and-out on their first three possessions and held the offense to just two field goals. The Jaguars, led by Allen, tackled Dolphins ballcarriers for a loss seven times in the half.

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The Dolphins added two touchdowns in the second half and beat the Jaguars 22-7. Jacksonville plays its final game of the preseason next Thursday at home against the Atlanta Falcons before Allen is presented with his first challenge in his pro career, a matchup against reigning league MVP Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1 on Sept. 8.

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