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Buffalo Bulletin: Josh Allen – To Slide Or Not To Slide



Much like every offseason, a bevy of topics hit the Buffalo Bills community. Most of them are new, or at least different from last season to this, but one particular query has reared its head much like it does every year. Should Josh Allen slide more?

Risk And Reward

First, we must establish something. Running is part of being a QB in the modern NFL. No longer can you simply stand in the pocket like a statue and deliver passes. The game has changed, as have the tools required to win it. QB designed running plays were more common than ever in 2022. We saw the most QB sneaks in NFL history, and the second-most scrambles.

Josh Allen is part of the new mobile quarterback movement, and it’s not something that we can cut out of his game.

Josh Allen rushing Buffalo Bills Baltimore Ravens
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Yes, running is a necessity to the way Josh Allen plays football; The way he does it is the only thing up for debate. In 2022, he was the team’s most efficient rusher, averaging 6.1 yards per attempt for 762 yards (124 attempts) and 7 touchdowns. The same was true in 2021, when he put up 6.3 yards per attempt for 763 yards (122 attempts) and 6 TDs.

Of those 2022 rushing yards, a massive 170 of them came after contact. That would take his yards per attempt down to 4.7, a loss of 1.4 yards each rush.

Going to ground early would significantly reduce his efficiency in the run game. It hampers the general effectiveness of both designed QB runs and scrambles, taking some of the sting out of having a dual-threat QB. How many times has Josh Allen fought for a first down that most QBs would settle short of? How many possessions have been extended because he’s converted a third down through contact? There are necessary examples of taking hits as a rushing QB, but it isn’t always the wise choice.

Fumble Risk

The invitation of contact by refusing to go to ground when the opportunity is given increases the risk of turning the ball over. The statistics may be negligible, but the increased risk is a factor worth noting. First, let’s take a look at Allen’s total fumbles from the 2022 regular season to assess the severity of the problem.

The information given tells a surprising story. Ball security was an issue for Allen in 2022, but his fumbles almost exclusively relate to his offensive line.

Josh Allen Stats2022
Total Fumbles13
Hit In Pocket6/13
Bad Snap Exchange5/13
Bad Handoff1/13
Rushing Fumble1/13
Stats recorded by Iestyn Harris

It shows us that, of Allen’s registered fumbles, all but two of them were the direct result of issues along the line and Allen’s exchanges with them. The other two were a dropped pitch to a runner on an end-around, and a forced fumble on a designed QB rushing play. Though a majority of fumbles occur inside the pocket, it’s still an issue we’d like to mitigate.

Josh Allen Fumble Buffalo Bills Eric Rowe Miami Dolphins
Gregory Fisher/USA TODAY Sports

So, why take that risk? Increasing the odds of a fumble is rarely wise, but Allen doesn’t have an issue there. It seems as though, with the data given, Allen losing the ball as a runner isn’t much of a concern at all.

Of course, fumbles aren’t the only concern when it comes to unnecessary tackles. The bigger question is: What happens to the Buffalo Bills if Josh Allen gets hurt?

The Injury Concern

To understand the injury concern, we must understand the player, as well as the realities of injuries when ball-carriers are tackled. So, let’s review the history of durability our beloved QB holds.

Josh Allen’s Injuries

Sep 12, 2015Broken CollarboneOn The Run
Nov 11, 2017Shoulder SprainIn The Pocket
Oct 14, 2018UCL SprainIn The Pocket
Sep 29, 2019ConcussionOn The Run
Dec 12, 2021Turf ToeOn The Run
Nov 6, 2022UCL SprainIn The Pocket
Most of this info comes from Buffalo Fanatics’ own Alex Lucci.

Allen’s injury history isn’t bad by the standards of a five-year NFL pro. In fact, considering his play style, it’s extremely impressive. The placement of his injuries, however, is somewhat telling. Allen’s most significant injuries happened in the pocket. The UCL injuries in 2018 and 2022 were the only ones with potential implications on his remaining career, but that doesn’t discount the importance of avoiding excess damages. For the purpose of this exercise, let’s focus on the injuries sustained whilst running.

In 2019, whilst on the run, Josh Allen took a hit to the head from a second defender whilst already being brought to ground by the Patriots. The concussion put his status up in the air for the next week, but he ultimately missed no time.

Josh Allen Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Buffalo Bills
Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

In 2021, in a similar scenario, Josh Allen’s foot was injured following a 23-yard run in crunch time. He had turf toe, left the stadium in a boot, and dealt with limited mobility for weeks after the fact. It affected his play for the entirety of the remaining regular season and, thought the Buffalo Bills closed out strong, Allen needed a long time to recover.

Running Doesn’t Equal Injury

His durability and ability to play through injury, clearly, isn’t in doubt. What is in doubt is the claim that running QBs get injured more often. Josh Allen has so far been an exception to that, but that’s not predictive analysis.

Fortunately for us, studies show that the rate at which running QBs suffer injuries is no higher that that of QBs in the pocket. In fact, it’s significantly lower on a play-by-play basis. Check out the numbers from Sports Injury Insider, sampled from 2016-2020:

This initial wave of information shows us that staying in the pocket is safest, but it’s misleading. When you break down the information by contact, removing instances where the play ended without a hit or tackle, the picture is significantly clearer. To make this apparent, those remaining dropbacks are broken down into sacks and knockdowns.

Per Edwin Porras

It shows us that, in instances where contact is made, the safest place to be is down the field with the ball in your hands and expecting the hit. One could infer that the biggest cause of injury is a lack of awareness. When Josh Allen trucks a defender, or tries to sidestep contact for extra yardage, he’s prepared to be tackled, and goes to the ground safely despite the contact to avoid injury or turnover risk.

That being said, if he wants a long, healthy, and successful career, he’ll need to be more careful in the future.

Where Responsibility Lies

If the Buffalo Bills want to limit Josh Allen’s hits, they need to understand who he is. Based on the comments from Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane, they do.

There is a certain amount of need for Josh Allen to understand what he must do in every scenario. Perhaps he has to give up before making the first down from time to time. He may need to sacrifice success for longevity. He knows, intellectually, that he has to make these changes, but in the heat of the moment it doesn’t always stick.

Josh Allen Buffalo Bulls Rushing Hurdle New England Patriots
Winslow Townson/Associated Press

That’s where the blame must be placed… on the coaches. Josh Allen is a known commodity and, if we intend to keep him safe all year long, he needs to be given options that are more favourable than doing it all himself. Ken Dorsey and Sean McDermott must put Josh in situations where he has a man open on third and short, instead of a path through a linebacker.

But one lesson has to be learned above all. Josh Allen must do what he has to do in a game to keep both himself and the ball safe. He’ll never stop running, but he can be smarter about it.

Josh Allen Must Be Careful

Scrambling is worthwhile, and an essential part of the Josh Allen experience.

Josh Allen is a weapon; that much we know already. His running talent, and the ability and willingness to fight for extra yardage is admirable and valuable. That being said, the Buffalo Bills aren’t looking at one single year of Super Bowl contention. If they intend to keep that window open for the entirety of Josh Allen’s career, they’re going to need to keep him safe.

Josh Allen Buffalo Bills Crowd Fans Rushing
Adrian Kraus/The Associated Press

There is a time to scramble. There is a time to go for yardage instead of settling for a slide. In fact, there are even times when he absolutely must risk life and limb for one extra yard. That time is not every time. Josh Allen holds a responsibility, to himself and his team, to understand the difference and hit the turf.

Like this piece? Check out the previous Buffalo Bulletin on Sean McDermott calling the Bills defense.

The Buffalo Bulletin on Buffalo Fanatics is a weekly editorial by Iestyn Harris. Check back regularly for hot topics, riveting discussion, and, occasionally, some actual insight.

Original Featured Image: Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images; Composite By Iestyn Harris

One of the owners The Sports Wave, and a Journalist at Buffalo Fanatics, I'm an English immigrant living in Canada. A huge Buffalo Bills fan, I also love my Boston Celtics, Toronto Blue Jays, and Queens Park Rangers.