Lurtsema's Reaction: Jared Allen Up Close

Former Vikings defensive lineman Bob Lurtsema got an opportunity to watch the Vikings' new defensive end, Jared Allen, work his craft at OTAs last week. See what Lurtsema thought of the NFL sacks leader from 2007 and other matters on the defensive line.

VU: Let's start with the practices you attended last week and your impressions of what you saw, starting with Jared Allen.

BL: Everything that's been written about Jared Allen was rather obvious during this optional camp. Watching him get off the ball on the basics, they have a drill where the defensive line coach pulls the ball and they get off the ball. Watching them work, they're working on their stance to stay low and get a good habit. He was first on that and then I watched him doing the sprints at the end and he's first on all that. He's the leader of the pack. He laughs. He has fun out there. Just watching him in these little drills, he's everything that's been written about him.

VU: I heard a number of comments from writers and other media types with them being surprised at how tall and lanky he is. Did his body shape and being 6-foot-6 surprise you at all?

BL: I'm 6-6. These media guys – I believe Jason Taylor was an MVP on defense and I believe he's 6-7 or 6-6. In "Dancing with the Stars," he's awesome; he's light on his feet. If you watch a man that's that smooth and that graceful – I don't care what Bill Parcells says – the kid's got it all. You want somebody that's 6-6 to be playing on the outside. You want long arms. You're going against offensive tackles – and I'll just throw a casual one out there like Bryant McKinnie at 6-foot-12 – you have got to have long arms and be tall. You're fighting with the inches, and by inches I mean who grabs on the inside faster. If you have a 6-foot defensive end with short arms, he's dead. I don't care how quick he is. They can't get into it. Don't give me a 6-foot-1, 6-foot-2 end. I'll take them at 6-5, 6-6 all day long.

VU: I think part of the impression was that he isn't as bulky as a lot of ends get these days, and I think it goes back to a time when you didn't have to be 300 pounds to play on the line. What's your take on that?

BL: Size doesn't mean anything; it's technique. You look at Dwight Freeney with the Colts – what's he, 260, 265 (according to NFL.com, he's 268)? I show the linemen when I work with them, I'll grab you on the outside of your shoulder pads and tell you, ‘Don't let me move you' and I won't be able to move you. Now I'll grab on the inside and say, ‘Stop me now.' I'll move you around like a bobber with walleye that just bit your hook. It's leverage, it's not strictly strength. A lot of times, these coaches want to get them all bulked up and be heavy and all that. Sure, but that's not the total package. If you get bulky, you lose some of your agility. If you lose some of your agility with as quick as this game is now, you're defeating your purpose.

Each player is different and there is an exception to everything. If you watch Brady Smith, who played with Atlanta, his stance is goofy-looking. But when he took off, he never came up. He looked like he was long and drawn out, but his head stayed low, so there are exceptions.

Here's a guy in Allen that gets off the ball quick. As a player, you've got to get in a zone. Say the zone is 80 to 100. A lot of these athletes will play 0 to 80 and then every so often you'll see them in the zone, where everything is working right. Jared Allen is playing in that zone all the time. He has taken himself to that zone with the way he approaches the game with everything from technique, style, size, motor – he's got it all. He's in that zone. Coaches try to work players to get in that zone and sometimes they work them in the wrong direction. That's why I'll go to my grave saying that it's 65 percent coaching in the pros.

VU: The other side of it is that Ray Edwards is moving over to left end and they're saying he's put on five to 10 pounds. How much do you agree with his strategy putting on a little weight and how much of a difference it moving from right end to left end?

BL: The weight situation, I was going to praise Leslie Frazier for recognizing that. One time I came into camp at 270 and had put on some weight, but I wasn't the same player. I wasn't as soft on my feet. I was sluggish just a little bit. Some of things I just talked about, I've lived through. I tried to put more weight on because I was playing tackle – the weight wasn't fat, it was muscle – but the weight was actually a negative as far as my body was and how I reacted. When I saw that with Edwards, I was going to call Frazier for how perceptive he was in picking up on a little thing that is so big to an athlete. It's no different than you feeling great at 180 but when you hit 195 or 200, you feel like a fat slob and sluggish.

As far as moving him to the left side, that's a situation where I ask every lineman when they come in if they play both tackle and end. I say, ‘What's the difference between defensive tackle and defensive end.' If they say, ‘It's about the same,' those guys aren't going to make it. There is a huge difference. At tackle, it's about quickness. As a defensive end, you're out there on an island and it's slower. I hate to always go back to me, but I use that so the fans know I'm not just grasping because we're talking defensive line now. I loved right tackle first; I loved right end second. I loved left end third, left tackle fourth. That's how I ranked those positions in my career. With Edwards, I don't know if he played right or left side at Purdue. Is a right-handed stance or left-handed stance best for him? Does he stay lower on the left side than he does the right? It is a different look. If you don't change your stance, you could be looking over your arm if you're on the right side with a left-handed stance. I'm a little bit backwards because I think it's opposite of what I liked. Everyone is different, so you've got to know the personnel. I think with them keeping Jared Allen on the right side, he probably told them he likes the right side better. Jared Allen is that pass rusher you need and that's coming from the right side.

Why do they run more to the right side anyway – the defense's left? It's because most people are right-handed so they have a natural, easy tendency to run right. Darrin Nelson was left-handed and he loved running to the left. Bud Grant picked that out at one of the practices. When you get to this level, the good coaches – and that's what Leslie Frazier is – they pick this stuff out and they know exactly where to play a player. You and I have talked so many times about not playing a player to his weakness.


Bob Lurtsema was a 12-year veteran defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins VikingUpdate.com for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.


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