It is highly unlikely there will be any designed runs for Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck on Sunday. After all, the biggest difference between him and Jake Locker, who will sit out with a shoulder injury, is the ability to make plays with his feet.
There’s a pretty good chance, though, that there will be times during his first start of the season when Hasselbeck will have to run for his life.
The Minnesota Vikings share the lead in sacks since the start of the 2011 season and their defensive line features Jared Allen, a four-time All-Pro who had a league-high 22 last season.
“I’ve got no new moves — what you see is what you get,” Allen said. “I just hope my technique is better than your technique and I can take advantage of opportunities. … I’m not going to learn a spin move at 30 years old. That’s just not going to happen for me. I do what I do, and hopefully that’s good enough.”
For the eight-plus seasons since he entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick by Kansas City in 2004, it has been about as good as it gets.
Allen is second among all active players with 107 career sacks, the third highest total ever for a player through his first nine seasons. Last year was the second time he was the league leader. He had an NFL-best 15.5 in 2007 with Kansas City and has had 11 or more in six of the last seven seasons.
“He’s never satisfied, not satisfied with the sacks he got a year ago when he had 22,” Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said. “He wants to improve so he puts the time in. You have the talent that he has, the passion that he has for the game, and then you’re a smart football player — you’re going to be a pretty special guy, and he is.”
Already this season, Allen has two sacks, which ties him for second on the team — with four others.
Minnesota (3-1) entered the week as one of 10 teams with at least 12 sacks through the first four weeks of the season. Third-year defensive end Everson Griffen has three, and Allen is part of the group with two each.
“We’ve been getting it from all angles, which has been kind of nice,” Allen said. “I tend to look more at the ones we’ve missed this year. I know personally I left three on the field that I had in my arms, along with a couple of other guys around here, so our numbers could be greater.”
Tennessee (1-3), by contrast, is among the bottom seven in that regard. Its six in the first four games is half of the Vikings’ total, and no individual has more than one.
“We’re never going to be content,” coach Mike Munchak said. “If we had 10 or 12 right now, I’d say the same thing. You always want more, you always want it better. To me, it’s a lot of circumstance there too. We’ve been behind in all of these games — teams haven’t had to throw the football, they haven’t been under pressure.”
At least the same is true of their own quarterbacks, too.
Hasselbeck and Locker have been sacked a combined six times, Only four teams have allowed fewer.
Locker’s ability to escape has been a factor in that number. He’s attempted nearly three times as many passes as Locker yet they each have been dumped three times. Plus, the quarterback was Tennessee’s leading rusher in each of the first three games.
Hasselbeck has his own defense mechanism.
“Let’s put it this way: I don’t think there’s a quarterback that gets rid of the ball as fast as him,” Allen said. “Maybe Peyton [Manning] — maybe he’s second to Peyton, so it is a tough thing to prepare. … Jake can run, and Matt’s going to get the ball out of his hand. He knows his reads, and you’re really going to have to do stuff coverage-wise to try to cloud his reason and buy a little time to get there.”