DraftNasty Rewind: “Running with the Bills”- Josh Allen

Josh Allen was one of five quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Like fellow first round pick, Baltimore Ravens quarterback, Lamar Jackson, Allen can get a lot done with his legs. Under the direction of Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, Allen plays with a uniqueness to the position.

In order to better understand this now NFL starter, let’s look back at our evaluation of the former Wyoming signal caller:

What makes this player NASTY? (Strengths): Prototype size. 10 1/8” hands. Good instincts. Competitive. Tough” (Corey Chavous 2018 NFL Draft Guide).

Fast forward a year and a half and these same attributes are at the top of the list when describing Allen. Take a look at this scramble for a touchdown against Miami. Immediately, what jumps out is the large hands as well as the instincts previously described, Allen is able to scramble right, palm the ball and unlike some other quarterbacks, he doesn’t look to move the chains and dive. Allen goes into the teeth of the defense and even dips his shoulder against a linebacker as he runs into the end zone.

For his career, Allen has thrown 27 touchdowns and 20 interceptions with a 56.7 completion percentage. He’s also run for 1,070 yards and averages 5.8 yards per carry, while losing three fumbles.

“He’s like a running back,” New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said during a press conference before playing the Bills this season. “He breaks tackles. He’s got good speed, good power, and he’s shifty. He avoids and breaks a lot of tackles. It’s another dimension, sixth receiver in the passing game if you will. Gives them another blocker in the running game when they have designed run plays for him.”

For his career, Allen has 17 rushing touchdowns compared to Jackson’s 12 and when the two met earlier this month, their combined 1,407 rushing yards was the most ever between two opposing starting quarterbacks. When looking more into Allen’s rushing touchdowns, you also see that he will run in it on each and every down, he has at least one rushing touchdown on each down with two rushing touchdowns coming on 4th and 5 or more.

Like a running back, Allen leaves himself susceptible to some big hits (see his scramble against the New England Patriots on third down in the fourth quarter, where he took a hit to the helmet). One of the weaknesses, we highlighted was “Allen’s reckless playing style has led to durability concerns.” Last year, Allen missed time with an elbow injury.

Digging deeper into the numbers, Allen has proven to be an effective runner on first and second down, where he averages 8.5 yards per attempt. This highlights what has been an effective recipe for the Bills offense when they’re successful: A big run on early downs, which allows for Frank Gore to get carries in short yardage situations and allows Allen to utilize the play action on second and third and short.

At the :23 second mark of the video below, we can see the athletic ability that Belichick is referring too. DraftNasty had Allen rated as the No. 4 quarterback in the draft and one reason why is that we felt his skills would have to be maximized by an offensive coordinator. Last year, during the opening week of the season versus the Ravens, DraftNasty highlighted in our in-game report some of Allen’s abilities. However, Allen had to sit behind Nathan Peterman and wasn’t given the reigns fully until the season began. A year later, Allen is the unquestioned starter and his coordinator has opened up more of the playbook. Daboll has mixed in run-pass options with deep shots to Bills speedster John Brown and uses Cole Beasley in the slot. Look at the similar play calling Daboll used when he was at the University of Alabama with then quarterback Jalen Hurts at the 2:20 mark.

The successful marriage between offensive coordinator and quarterback has led to a 9-4 season for the Bills and has them in the running for an AFC East division title, which they haven’t won since 1995. Another strength DraftNasty highlighted of Allen was his ability to run a pro-style offense with multiple shifts and two-tight end sets in Wyoming. Daboll has utilized his quarterback’s ability to handle multiple formations and has adopted the philosophy of his former mentor, Bill Belichick, who has been known to alter his schemes from week-to-week. According to the Democrat and Chronicle, through the first 10 games of this season, the Bills used 246 different offensive personnel combinations which is the fourth-most in the league behind the Dolphins, Lions and 49ers. Worth noting, the Lions and Dolphins both have head coaches who have ties to Belichick.

These multiple formations not only serve as window dressing for the defense but allow Allen to simplify his reads.

Look at how Daboll uses a motion man in the opening drive vs. the Redskins to manipulate the linebackers and allow Allen to decipher if it’s man or zone defense while tilting the formation for running plays. It’s important that the Bills play well early in situations because Allen has thrown nine interceptions to just five touchdowns with a 51 percent completion percentage when trailing. As opposed to four touchdowns and three interceptions with a 53 percent completion percentage when ahead.

As the Bills jockey for playoff positioning, we see how much Allen means to Buffalo’s offense. And almost two full NFL seasons later and we think this analysis of Allen still rings true.

“While he could use a year or two of development behind a bridge quarterback, he may be able to transition to the NFL game at a faster pace than expected. He’s an emotional, fiery player who will need to hone his footwork, timing and trajectory as a passer. We feel he’s an early-round talent capable of competing for a starting job early in his career,” according to our 2018 assessment of Allen.

DraftNasty feels like the Bills have found an adequate coordinator in Daboll, who can maximize Allen’s abilities. If the signal caller is to continue to ascend look for an improvement in his mechanics and to be more judicial when running.

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