Josh Allen is ready to take the leap. The Bills shoot-out victory over the Miami Dolphins last Sunday saw Allen throw for 417 yards, 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions with a yards per attempt (Y/A) of 11.91 and a completion percentage (cmp%) of 68.57. Furthermore, Allen has become the first Bills quarterback to throw for 300+ yards in back to back games since Drew Bledsoe in 2002.
The victory over Miami on Sunday could be considered Allen’s best since the Thanksgiving romp over the Cowboys in 2019. Allen looked like a franchise quarterback and a leader of men. Surrounded by premier pass-catching talent, a steady stable of running backs and complimented by a top-level defence, the time is now for Josh Allen to take the leap and clutch the AFC East, if not the entire AFC.
The Western New York Connection
A few eyebrows were raised when the Bills front office traded a 2020 first-round pick for Stefon Diggs in the offseason. Diggs is one of the undisputed top ten receivers in the NFL. However, the pass-catcher earned a reputation for himself in Minnesota as somewhat of a diva, forcing is way out of the North Star State whilst constantly undermining his quarterback, Kirk Cousins.
It is easy to see why Diggs was frustrated with the Vikings. Cousins has earned a reputation of being ‘too safe’ and unwilling to take shots downfield – an area of the game where Diggs thrives. “There was a lot of speculation of me being frustrated,” Diggs told reporters last October, “Being a receiver, and wanting to have success and wanting to win, if you want to win and you’re not winning, of course, you’ll be frustrated.”
It’s no secret that Allen is a more aggressive quarterback than Cousins. Allen has a bigger arm and more of a willingness to let the ball go in tight windows. Per Sports Info Solutions, Allen’s average throw depth in 2019 was 8.7 yards, compared to Cousins’ average throw depth of 7.3. Moreover, per Next Gen Stats, Cousins was one of the least aggressive quarterbacks in the league last year, with only 12.9% of his throws going into tight windows. When you take into consideration Cousins had one of the best receiver tandems in the league, it’s not a good look for the Vikings quarterback.
Through two weeks in Buffalo, Diggs is being utilised well, making contested catches and giving Allen a reliable target who knows how to get open. Against Miami, Diggs recorded 153 yards receiving and a touchdown with a yards per reception (Y/R) of 19.13.
As seen in the clip above, the Bills acquired a talent in Diggs that complements Allen’s play. Instead of going out and finding a guy who is a great player in his own right, but doesn’t fit Allen’s skillset, the Bills found the best of both worlds in Diggs. And for Diggs, he finally has a quarterback with all the physical tools necessary to throw it deep as well as the propensity to through into tight windows – giving his receivers a chance to make a play.
Towards the end of the game on Sunday, Allen made numerous highlight-reel throws. Whether it was a pinpoint accurate throw towards the sideline for a huge gain to Diggs, using his physical tools as a scrambler to make a play or tossing absolute rainbows down the field to his litany of weapons, Allen was in full flow.
Take a look at this play. It’s 2nd & 7 late in the fourth quarter. The Bills are driving to take the lead. Miami forces Allen out of the pocket and to his right where he whips an absolute dime to Diggs on the crosser. Although Allen does have one or two absurd missed throws in a game, it plays like this that have the Bills believing they have the guy at quarterback.
On the same drive, Allen almost throws a costly interception to the Dolphins on a deep bomb trying to kill the game. Although Allen almost put his side in a very bad position at a crucial point in the game, he has the mental fortitude as a third-year player to come back and drop this absolute dime to John ‘Smokey’ Brown on the very next play to kill the game.
What’s so impressive about these throws, on top of the willingness to chuck it deep straight after almost throwing a pick, is how often Allen is under pressure while making them. He rarely has time to set his feet, step into throws, cock his arm back. More often than not there’s a defender in his face and it just takes a flick of the wrist from Allen to send the ball piercing through the air.
And finally, let’s take a look at this scramble from Allen on 3rd & 8 late in the second quarter.
Allen evades a rusher, stiff arm/ trucks a linebacker then it takes multiple Dolphins defenders to bring the quarterback down. Right now, the ceiling for Allen is pre-shoulder injury 2015 Cam Newton. The powerful, lumbering runs, the flick of the wrist deep balls and the proficiency in the red zone. If Allen can master the cerebral component of the game in a similar way to Cam, then the sky is the limit for the young quarterback.
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
For most of Allen’s career, it’s been a case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Just when Allen has things figured out and looks like a franchise quarterback, he makes a hilariously bad overthrow, or throws a pick-six or fumbles the ball five times a game. However, as year three for Allen rolls along, we may finally be witnessing the long-awaited evolution of the Bills quarterback.
While Allen certainly has the propensity to let Mr Hyde take control, through the first two weeks of the 2020 season he has given us all the reason to believe that he is finally making the leap. In the battle of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Allen is firmly subduing his ugly side.