Josh Allen has to stop playing like Carson Wentz if the Bills are going to have a chance

Josh Allen has to stop playing like Carson Wentz if the Bills are going to have a chance

Josh Allen’s trio of picks thrown to New York Jets safety Jordan Whitehead and his two fumbles on one play, were the kiss of death for the Buffalo Bills in their loss to a New York Jets team whose Super Bowl aspirations disappeared after Aaron Rodgers went down with a torn Achilles. However, being humbled by the Jets is nothing to be ashamed of in a vacuum — especially with Gang Green’s defensive performance. As easy as it is to chalk Allen’s errors up to Week 1 rustiness against a debilitating team, the outcome was troubling because it is a continuation of the downward spiral that Allen’s slid down in the 19 games he’s played since his 2022 Divisional Round classic against Patrick Mahomes.

On the heels of his legendary fourth-quarter barnburner against the Chiefs and a second-place finish in 2020 MVP voting, expectations for Allen were sky-high. However, his off night is looking like the new normal for Allen while his stretch between 2020 and 2021 is the outlier. In the 13 games since beating the Kansas City Chiefs in a raucous Sunday afternoon showdown in October of last year, Allen has thrown 22 touchdowns to 16 interceptions. He’s fumbled 13 times as well. If you go back even further to the beginning of 2022, he’s committed 39 turnovers over his past 19 games.

Whereas Mahomes is Kansas City’s first-rate brain surgeon and Joe Burrow is the coroner keeping a previously dead franchise in the hunt, Josh Allen is a butcher. He’s not diagnosing coverages with a scalpel. He’s just using a cleaver on every down.

Allen’s reputation as a gifted, multigrade weapon with a rocket arm who regresses after a prodigious contract extension sounds uncomfortably similar to the Carson Wentz career arc. Will Allen tumble out of the league and reach the depths that Wentz did? Probably not. For him, a regression toward the Dak Prescott range of quarterback play should be alarming for Bills Nation.

By air and by ground, Allen has become a liability. Lamar Jackson is his only equal as a dual threat over the last five seasons. But Allen doesn’t get to cruise in open space like Jackson. Instead, he’s usually carrying the ball into carnage like the QB analog of Derrick Henry, taking unnecessary hits, and turning the ball over at a higher clip than his Ravens counterpart. Oftentimes, those are designed runs.

Allen’s fumbles are a chicken or the egg dilemma, which alludes to a defect in the Bills’ offensive Death Star. Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey has constructed a heliocentric model of an offense that revolves around Allen. If you subtract Allen’s 762 rushing yards from the Bills’ 2022 totals, they’d be the NFL’s second-worst rushing team last season ahead of only a historically bad Bucs attack. Allen’s 44-yard gallop against the Dolphins in Week 15 was the Bills longest running play of 2022. The productivity placed on Allen’s shoulders is beginning to overwhelm him.

You hate to see a quarterback develop a rapport with a play-caller just to watch him shuffle off to some other city. Matt Ryan and Kyle Shanahan, Jalen Hurts and Shane Steichen, and Greg Roman and Colin Kaepernick were among the great offensive coordinator-QB tandems to break up in the last decade. Brian Daboll and Allen were in the top five. Hired in 2018, Daboll carved Allen from a pumpkin into Buffalo’s diamond in the rough. Daboll was an instrumental part of Buffalo’s miraculous reconstruction project, which defied conventional wisdom by fixing the perennially off-target Wyoming quarterback’s accuracy.

The Buffalo Bills trade for Stefon Diggs coincided with Allen’s development maxing out. But his rocky decision-making in recent years as more responsibility gets placed on his shoulders has been his downfall.

He’s a classic whiplash quarterback. Unlike the steadier brand of franchise players, whiplash QBs have seasons. For weeks, they’ll be hot and their cold streaks are equally legendary. Their play deviates from extreme to extreme so violently he’ll have you clutching your neck. Think of Daunte Culpepper’s career or the career of Ryan Fitzpatrick. Or the worst-case scenario of Wentz. Allen’s whiplash traits flare up when he’s operating outside the pocket and trying to wallop defenses downfield.

But when precision is needed, he’s what Greg Cosell once labeled a “see it, throw it” passer who relies too heavily on chunk plays as opposed to an anticipation passer who leads receivers open. After watching the way Tua Tagovailoa used a Swiss Army knife of dimes to every section of the field to incapacitate the Chargers’ defense, Allen may be getting upstaged by the Dolphins more disciplined leader within his own division.

The critiques of Allen as a passer who takes too many chances are fair. More specifically, in Allen’s case, his deep ball is getting him in trouble. In 2022, Allen led the league in air yards — which measures how many yards the football travels in the air, from the line of scrimmage, regardless of whether the pass was completed — in deep passing yards, and deep completions. He ranked 12th in completion percentage on those attempts. His YOLO strategy blows the roof off of defenses, but if you watch each and every one of his interceptions from the 2022 season, a common theme emerges. The vast majority of them are the result of him chucking it up to the football heavens and some defensive back reeling in a punt pass he was praying for.

Allen will get back to showcasing the shock-and-awe ability that has the Bills in perennial contention. But the bar is too high for Josh Allen to be one of NFL’s the crème de la crème on a part-time basis.

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.