After the Bills’ Week 4 loss to the Patriots, we wrote about how Josh Allen’s decision-making and game management abilities absolutely had to improve. He was forcing throws, trying too hard to make the big play, taking unnecessary sacks, and simply not keeping the Bills Offense on schedule. Since then, Allen has turned his game around:Against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, Allen put on a performance that might have been the best of his young NFL career. His numbers were more efficient than staggering as he finished 19-24 (79.2%) for 231 yards with 1 touchdown, no interceptions, and a 120.7 QB Rating. He also rushed for 43 yards and a TD.
One of the key areas of improvement for Allen on Thursday was his ability to make snap decisions on 3rd down from within the pocket to extend drives. The below plays were great examples.
3rd Quarter, 3rd-and-4 (16 yards to Cole Beasley):
3rd Quarter, 3rd-and-3 (7 yards to Isaiah McKenzie):
4th Quarter, 3rd-and-6 (14 yards to Devin Singletary):
Allen identified the soft spot in the coverage and quickly attacked on the first and third plays above. On the second play, he calmly scanned the field from the pocket and put the ball on his receiver for a drive-extending 7-yard completion. Each of these conversions took place on scoring drives in the 2nd half.
These may seem like unspectacular throws, but these are exactly the types of plays that separate the good quarterbacks from the great ones. They were also throws that Allen had not been taking consistently enough throughout his young career. Every play can’t be a highlight, and in between those big plays a quarterback has to be able to take the short passes that help keep the ball in the offense’s hands. The Bills should be incredibly pleased with Allen’s development this season.
That said, Allen made plenty of big plays against the Cowboys, his physical tools on display for the world to see. On the below 3rd-and-10 from the shadow of his own goalpost, Allen moved to avoid the rush, kept his eyes downfield, and then delivered an unbelievable throw on the run to Cole Beasley for 29 yards.
It is difficult for defensive backs to cover for more than a few seconds in man coverage. Eventually, someone will break open. On this play, the coverage by cornerback Byron Jones was actually decent. But he had to cover just long enough for Beasley to be able to separate.
On the below touchdown pass, Allen used his legs to avoid the rush and buy time once again. You’ll notice that Cole Beasley’s route was initially taken away by linebacker Jaylon Smith.
Allen’s movement gave Beasley time to adjust his route, and it also momentarily froze Smith. Allen’s legs created the void in this zone coverage.
Again, it’s extremely hard for defenders to cover late in the down if the quarterback has time to throw.
This next snap was Allen once again using his legs to avoid the rush and create another big play. He kept it on the ground this time.
To go along with his decent passing numbers in 2019 (which happen to be better than Tom Brady’s in Comp %, yds per attempt, TD %, and QB Rating), Allen has rushed for 430 yards and 8 touchdowns. That’s quite the season he’s put together so far.
Part of the improvement in Allen’s game has to do with the offseason addition of Cole Beasley. Beasley has been an underrated slot receiver for years, and his ability to win quickly off the line has been a major reason for Allen’s improvement, both as a game manager and in 3rd-down proficiency. Just look at his numbers from 2018 to 2019:This is the best team the Bills have had in quite some time. The division seems like a long shot, but anything can happen once Buffalo gets to the playoffs. If Allen continues his steady play, the Bills will be a tough out.
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