Josh Allen has transformed himself from a liability to one of the leading quarterbacks in the NFL. On the basis of this season, only Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers could claim to have outperformed the 24-year-old.
The Buffalo Bills quarterback still has his doubters, perhaps with good reason. It was less than a year ago that Allen lost his head in a playoff game, throwing, to use rugby parlance, an ‘out the back door offload’ which limply fell to the ground. A heinous mistake in a sport where looking after possession of the ball is fundamental, especially when trying to overhaul a lead in the final quarter of a playoff game with a first down already secured.
Errors have littered his NFL career, or rather, had littered.
A quarter of the way through his third season in the league, Allen has bordered perfection. In previous campaigns, the 6ft5in QB has relied on his legs frequently, using his considerable athleticism to bail him out of predicaments. But this year, Allen has added an array of quality passing to his game while still rushing for three touchdowns.
There are reasons for this external to Allen. The addition of Stefon Diggs to the receiving corp being one. Trading for Diggs seemed a positive offseason move but it could hardly have gone much better. John Brown and Cole Beasley are more than adept second and third receivers, forming the foundation for a formidable passing offense. Buffalo are also protecting Allen well enough for him to be relaxed in the pocket, allowing him to play with poise and throw with accuracy even when tight windows present themselves.
Allen has thrown for over 1,300 yards four games into the season, setting him on track to join the esteemed 5,000 yard club. A feat only achieved 12 times in NFL history, by illustrious names such as Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes and, to a far lesser extent, the erratic enigma that is Jameis Winston…
Perhaps the stat that is more indicative of the level of Allen’s play is that he has only one interception against his name, despite the volume of throws made. It has long been recognised that Allen has the talent to be a force in the NFL, but mistakes and inconsistency indicated there was a reinforced ceiling to the level he could attain. A useful player? Yes. A Super Bowl winning quarterback? Unlikely at best.
The shift in perception regarding Allen makes him an obvious front runner for the most improved player in the league, if such an award existed. Last year he was in the lower half of the NFL when it came to most quarterback metrics, now Allen is a legitimate league MVP candidate. Had fellow QB’s Wilson and Rodgers not started the season in just as impressive form, Allen would be the front runner.
One intangible element surrounding Allen is his confidence level. Against the Rams and Raiders in successive weeks, he led his side to victory under considerable pressure, continuing to play as he had done in the first two weeks against lesser opposition. A sign of both maturity and self-belief.
The Bills are on course to dethrone the Patriots as the AFC East division winners, a title won by New England every year since 2009. Incidentally, Buffalo has not won the conference since 1995. With a two game lead over New England in the bag at the quarter mark, Sean McDermott must be positively giddy at the prospect of finally usurping Bill Belichick’s distinguished team.
If it were to happen, McDermott would rightly come in for a lot of credit. The Bills are far more than Allen. They have a dynamic running game and a tenacious defense which are tricky to break down.
That being said, a team’s success is inextricably tied to the quarterback. Allen’s transition from middling QB to playing as well as any in the league has catapulted the Bills from a team in contention for the playoffs to a contender to win the Super Bowl.
A considerably worse version of Allen led the Bills to the playoffs last year. Surely the 2020 version can only take them even closer to the Vince Lombardi Trophy.