Matchup to Watch: Jones vs. Allen

Jared Allen (Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)

Quick, don't blink and don't be late to Friday night's preseason opener or you might miss Jared Allen trying to undo Walter Jones. The matchup of the perennial Pro Bowl tackle versus the league's defending sack champion should be good one.

In most preseason games, the real matchups to watch aren't necessarily from one team to the other. More times than not, they are matchups within a team itself – like who will win the right tackle battle between Ryan Cook and Marcus Johnson or the nickel corner battle between Marcus McCauley, Charles Gordon and Benny Sapp.

However, when you get a matchup of Pro Bowlers – one of whom is destined for the Hall of Fame and the other is building an impressive early resume for himself – it has to be a walk-off. Even if they're only going to tangle for a series or two, new Vikings defensive end Jared Allen and Seattle offensive tackle Walter Jones are a natural for the matchup of the week. .

A lot of national football journalists scoffed at the amount the Vikings gave up to lock down Allen – a first- and two third-round draft picks in last April's draft – but it was done for a reason. The Vikings had the 32nd-rated pass defense in the league last year and much of the reason for that was that the Vikings could not generate a consistent pass rush. Despite missing the first two games of the season due to a league suspension, Allen finished the year with 15.5 sacks – a half-sack more than the top three Vikings sack leaders combined. .

Allen not only records sacks and creates turnovers, but he also pressures the quarterback into getting rid of the ball faster than he wants to and, coming from the QB's blind side, he can create a lot of havoc in the backfield. If playing to same level he has the last couple of seasons, Allen can single-handedly improve the Vikings pass defense by simply doing what he does best – pressure the passer. .

If he is to do that against Matt Hasselbeck, he will have to get over Jones to do it. Jones is a perennial Pro Bowl selection, who, when combined with former Seahawks and current Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson, created a killer tandem that helped make Shaun Alexander one of the most productive running backs in the league. Jones was also asked to lock down any top pass-rushing right DE in the league and, for the most part, has neutralized the opposition. He may be used very sparingly because he comes into the preseason opener with a shoulder injury he has been nursing. But it's unlikely the Seahawks will sit Jones if he can go and will face a player of Allen's skill and motivation in his first home game as a Viking.

Some matchups are creations of the media. Others are ones that have simmered over the years, like Pat Williams vs. Olin Kreutz twice a year. But Jones is going to be critical to the Seahawks remaining the top dog in the NFC West with a new backfield. Allen is being asked to be the pass-rushing cornerstone of the new-look Vikings defense. They may only hook up for a series or two, but Allen's unstoppable force and Jones' immovable object pairing will be the matchup to watch Friday night.


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