Among the crazy-talented group of quarterbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson were the most highly debated.
The pair have some similarities. Both have big arms but accuracy issues and both are excellent athletes. We will worry about Jackson later (twice), this is the Buffalo Bills week. The NFL seemed to love Allen, but many draft experts did not. He is not lighting the league on fire so far in 2019, but he has shown a spark that makes him look just as “dangerous” as Baker Mayfield.
For the record, I came in at the middle on Allen. I saw a first round talent, but I would not have considered him with a top-10 pick, regardless of my quarterback situation and thought the Bills reached to get him. Admittedly, declaring a player a mid-to-late 1st Round pick vs. a top-10 pick is kind of splitting hairs though, especially when it comes to quarterback, but there you have it.
At the end of the day the right time to get your franchise quarterback is as soon as you can and the right value is whatever it takes. Allen is not ready to put the team on his back yet, but based on what I’ve seen so far, they found their guy.
So let’s take a look at Allen and what the Bengals will need to do to stop him.
In this first clip, the Bills appear to be running a boot, but Allen sets up and throws back across his body. He delivers a strike to Isaiah McKenzie for a 26-yard gain.
This is a tough ball. Allen is on the move and has his back to the throw initially. So this is not only a big throw physically, but also mentally. He has to whip his head around and quickly diagnose the defense and find his target. Allen makes a good throw and the correct read.
Yeah, I missed on Josh Allen... he’s pretty flippin’ good pic.twitter.com/MnwNcL0Dx4— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) September 16, 2019
This next clip is from the Bengals’ game last weekend. 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo runs a boot, but Carlos Dunlap is disciplined with his assignment. He knows he is responsible for the boot, so he doesn’t pursue the run too quickly.
When he sees the boot-action, he takes an angle to contain Garoppolo forcing him to tuck the ball and abort the pass. Dunlap gets an assist on the tackle from Geno Atkins, who has come in pursuit after diagnosing the play.
So why did I show the previous clip?
For all the Bengals’ flaws defensively, they are actually pretty disciplined in their pass rush. This is interesting, because it is the fatal flaw of many defensive units that are otherwise very good.
Allen is an excellent athlete, they will put him on the move with boots and he will scramble on his own. It is important that the Bengals pressure him, but it is equally important that they contain him because he can make things happen when he scrambles.
In this next clip, Allen feels pressure up the middle. As he tries to escape the pocket, he comes face to face with B.J. Hill. No matter, Allen stops and cuts as if he is going to run up the middle and Hill bites on this fake.
Now there is no one on the edge. Allen keeps his eyes down field as he is pursued by multiple Giants defenders. Off-platform and nearly in the grasp of the pass rushers, Allen throws an excellent ball to John Brown, converting this third down.
Allen has similar success on this play.
As Grant Haley blitzes, he should be aiming for the quarterback’s back shoulder, ensuring that he will not be able to escape the pocket. Instead, he comes tight off the edge and approaches Allen from the front. This allows Allen to buy time with his feet and find tight end Dawson Knox for a first down. Once again this pass is made under duress. Allen is on the move and avoiding pursuit which means that he is unable to setup and use traditional throwing mechanics.
Quarterbacks who can use their athletic ability to create and throw the ball down field are deadly in today’s NFL and Allen has shown a knack for doing just that.
The Bengals must maintain their disciplined approach to rushing the passer. Allen will make far more plays on the run than he does from in the pocket. If they can contain and pressure him, it will create turnover opportunities.
Allen can also make plays as a runner and the Bills will call his number to do just that. This quarterback sweep is one of his 2 rushing touchdowns on the season.
In the first two games, a ton of Allen’s passes have been tipped. The Bills’ offensive line is not doing a good job of keeping defenders’ hands down. The Bengals’ pass rushers need to understand this and look to get their hands up if they are not going to be able to get home on the pass rush. It is an internal clock that defensive linemen develop. They must know when they are not going to get to the quarterback in time and adjust to make the play in a different way.
The clip below shows a ball tipped at the line of scrimmage that ends up being an interception.
This is getting ridiculous pic.twitter.com/NNPp55kikp— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) September 17, 2019
Allen has thrown two interceptions on the year: the tipped ball shown above and another that hit Cole Beasley in the hands before bouncing to C.J. Mosley.
So neither interception was actually his fault.
This interception however was his fault. (It just didn’t count due to a penalty.)
Once again this is a play-action that takes Allen’s eyes away from the throw. This time Steve McLendon has penetrated the backfield and Allen has to avoid him before throwing the ball down field.
This distraction may be what caused Allen to throw the ball errantly into a sea of green jerseys. The Bengals have one of the best interior rushers in the league. If Atkins can pressure Allen while the edge rushers keep him in the pocket, the Bengals could force turnovers.
Make no mistake, after last week's debacle, the Bills will be looking to run the ball with Devin Singletary and Frank Gore (though Singletary may miss this week due to injury). In fact, until the Bengals prove that they can stop the run, a heavier-than-usual dose of the run game should be expected every single week.
Just the same, they will depend on Allen to make plays as both a runner and a passer. He is extremely talented but if the Bengals can keep him in the pocket, they will be just fine. This is great, because it is something that they already do very well.