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Nate’s Notebook: Josh Allen. A Work in Progress

It’s no secret that the Bills’ most important player is quarterback Josh Allen. Armed with a smothering defense, a solid fleet of pass catchers, dependable running backs, and an improved offensive line, the Bills check off most of the boxes you’re looking for in a playoff team.



The main question mark coming into the season was whether Josh Allen make the sophomore leap necessary to propel Buffalo back to the postseason for the second time in three years. Through four weeks, the results have been mixed. The head-scratching mistakes are still present, but there is also reason for hope.

He’s Still Young

We live in a time where we expect highly drafted quarterbacks to come in and have immediate success. Sometimes it happens (Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson), sometimes it doesn’t (Eli Manning, Jared Goff, among countless others). The fact is, quarterback in the NFL is the single hardest position to play in all of sports.

It takes time to adjust to the speed and pace of the game. In this past weekend’s game against the Patriots, Allen made just his 15th NFL start. Some fans are saying he sucks, and it’s true that he’s had some rough moments. His footwork leaves something to be desired. His mechanics can get wonky at times. But he’s still young. Not every second year QB is Patrick Mahomes.

He’s Actually Been Pretty Good

Through those first 15 starts, Allen has an 8-7 record. Baker Mayfield, who receives plenty of hype, is 8-9 so far in his first 17 NFL starts. It’s true, Allen’s passing numbers are less than stellar so far (13 TDs, 18 INTs). But you have to account for his rushing prowess as well, which is nearly 800 yards and 11 TDs.

Peyton Manning is one of the five greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. He’s won two Super Bowls and owns two of the three most prolific passing seasons in the history of the game. Through his first 15 games, Manning accounted for 25 total TDs and 26 INTs. Allen has 24 total TDs and 18 INTs in that span. Manning was responsible for 3,500 yards of offense through those 15 games. Allen is responsible for over 3,700 yards so far. Oh, and Manning’s record was only 3-12 at that point in his career.

Yes, it’s been ugly at times for Allen, but there’s also been a lot of production, and he’s on the same pace of plenty of other young quarterbacks who have turned out to be pretty dang good.

The Ceiling is High

There’s no question Josh Allen has all of the physical tools you could ask for in a quarterback. He’s big, strong, has a laser arm, and can make throws most others aren’t physically capable of. Check out this TD pass from last season. He stands in against a vicious pass rush and throws a seed 45 yards down field while getting blasted in the chest.

He’s also been clutch in the 4th quarter on a number of occasions. He’s already led four fourth quarter comebacks and has engineered five game-winning drives. I’d say leading game-winning drives on a third of your career starts would qualify as clutch. The Golden Boy, Aaron Rodgers, has fourteen fourth quarter comebacks in 15 years. Allen has four in less than a full season of work.

The Mistakes Are Correctable

Allen has mainly gotten himself into trouble with his interceptions. Most of those have been due to poor mechanics. Throwing off balance or off your back foot will cause the throws you want to drive to sail, and throws down the field to come up short. It’s not unusual to see a young quarterback with Allen’s arm talent be lacking in mechanics. You can get away with it in high school and college (especially at a place like Wyoming), but you can’t get away with it consistently in the NFL. Allen will continue to learn the more technical aspects of the position and the turnovers should lessen as that happens.

As a runner, he’ll also need to learn to save his body. Yes, the shot he took from Jonathan Joseph was vicious and illegal. But a penalty flag doesn’t keep you healthy. You can’t help your team when you’re on the sideline, so it’s important for Allen to learn to protect himself when he runs. At nearly 240 lbs, Allen is probably as big or bigger than most of the players that tackle him on a scramble. But just because you can truck someone doesn’t mean you should. It’s too easy to get hurt. One shot to the ear hole, and you’re done for a couple weeks or more.

Overall, Josh Allen is on a positive track. It’s fair to expect less turnovers, and there’s no doubt Allen needs to be better in that area. He needs to trust his teammates and not try to put the offense on his back. He needs to tone down the hero ball tendencies. But Bills fans should be excited about their young quarterback, and he should lead this team into serious playoff contention this season. It’s not perfect and there’s still some growing pains, but the talent is undeniable. Josh Allen truly is a work in progress.