Following the Buffalo Bills 26-15 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving, they are now sitting at 9-3. Tucked in behind the Patriots in the AFC East, they are now the frontrunners for an AFC wild card slot. Sporting a mean defence (the Patriots and Niners are the only teams to concede fewer points), they will prove tricky customers for anyone on wildcard weekend. However, it has been the progress of a young QB, namely Josh Allen, over the last few weeks that has caught the eye.
Coming out of high school in California, Allen did not have any NCAA scholarship offers, despite his obvious athletic prowess. ESPN’s Mark Schlabach postulated:
At the time, Josh was about 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds. He hadn’t attended the elite quarterback camps and wasn’t a widely known prospect. His high school team didn’t participate in many 7-on-7 camps because Josh and many of his teammates were busy playing baseball and other sports. He was the leading scorer on his basketball team and also pitched on the baseball team, reaching 90 mph with his fastball.
After a short stay at Reedley junior college, Allen was picked up by the University of Wyoming. A broken collar bone derailed his first year in 2015, before a stellar 2016 season had Allen contemplating declaring for the 2017 NFL draft. Ultimately he ended up staying in school for another year before entering the 2018 draft process.
Josh Allen was one of the top prospects heading into the 2018 in a loaded QB class that included Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson. Scouts were impressed with Allen’s physical traits – height, a big frame, deceptive quickness and rare arm strength were all upticks. However, concerns over accuracy and timing were major red flags. He ranked 72nd in the country with a pass completion percentage of just 56.3%
Allen certainly helped his case with an impressive showing at the combine, and few who watched can forget the deep ball throws
However, it wasnt just his arm strength that the former Wyoming QB dazzled with, his other physical traits were equally as impressive.
Draft and early form
Initial draft chatter had Allen going number 1 overall to the Cleveland Browns, but they went a different route selecting Baker Mayfield. After trading with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the number 7 slot, the Buffalo Bills selected Allen as their guy. He was the 3rd QB selected in the draft, behind Mayfield and Sam Darnold.
The Bills front office later revealed they were impressed by Allen’s quiet confidence, leadership and football IQ. When questioned about accuracy issues, they felt this mainly down to supporting cast, and Allen’s habit of trying the impossible to lift those aroud him.
The Bills mafia didn’t have to wait long to see their new QB in action, when he replaced starter Nathan Peterman early in week 1. He went on to play in 11 games in his rookie season, missing some time with an ankle injury.
His rookie season was a bit of a mixed bag, as expected. He could wow with his deep ball throws. Allen also showed tremendous ability running the bowl. His ability to use his legs was more of a weapon, at times, than throwing the ball. He ended up with pass completion rate of 52.8%, for 10 Touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also added another 8 TDs on the ground
However, intermdiate throws were still a difficulty for Allen. His completion percentage dropping to the low 40s percentage wise, for throws between 10-25 yards. There was plenty to work on in the offseason
Josh Allen, and The Bills, went into the 2019 season knowing they had to be better on offence if they were to reach the promised land of the playoffs. Showing plenty of leadership, and personal awareness, Allen stated:
I’m a big believer in accountability and really understanding your strengths and your weaknesses,I think that’s the first and foremost thing that a leader needs to have, is to really understand himself or herself. To go up to a guy and say, ‘That’s on me. You ran a great route. I need to be better on that
The Bills retooled on offense, adding slot receiver Cole Beasley, and deep threat John Brown. The offensive line, as well as the backfield (adding veteran Frank Gore and rookie Devin Singletary) also underwent extensive surgery.
And it has paid off. The Bills are now sitting at 9-3 and look destined for a 2nd playoff appearance in the last 3 years. Allen’s game has evolved as the season has progressed. He still has a cannon like arm, but he chooses his moments more wisely. His touch passing has improved no end, and his ability with intermediate throws continues to improve. He seems more focused on attaining first downs and methodically moving down the field, rather than looking for a ‘home run’ with every throw. He has more assurance in the pocket, and a better feel for pressure. His running ability still can get him out of trouble if need be.
Since the bye week in week 6 he has been electric, leading the bills to 4 wins out of 6. In that time, he has thrown 11 TDs to 1 interception, and completed 123/204 passes. Although not perfect accuracy, these number show an clear evolution in the progress of a young QB.
With Lamar Jackson emerging as an MVP candidate, Josh Allen is at least making a case for being the 2nd best QB drafted in 2018. If nothing else, he looks to has stopped the revolving carousel of Quarterbacks in Buffalo.
And boy is he competitive…..
Title image: Independent.co.uk