Allen is still rough around the edges when passing the ball. Yet he still made plays when he needed to, especially on the ground. The rookie was prolific running the football, setting the Bills franchise record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a season with 631 yards on only 89 totes. He also scored a whopping eight rushing touchdowns.
This opened up things for Allen through the air. He wasn’t able to make precision throws often or even throw receivers open, but offensive design paired with Allen’s arm strength enabled him to have moderate success.
The jury is still out on whether Allen will actually develop into a top quarterback or even a serviceable one in this league. Still, his rushing ability brings another dimension to the Bills offense. Perhaps this can lead to some good things in Western New York.
Allen Made Strides As A Rookie
A Disastrous Start
The rookie looked confused and overwhelmed in his first six games. The poor decisions came to a head during a 22-point loss to the Green Bay Packers in Week Four. Allen went 16 for 33 and 151 yards while throwing two horrendous interceptions. He was sacked a season-high seven times, and the offensive line was not completely at fault.
He was sidelined in a week six loss against the Houston Texans, injuring his throwing elbow. At that point, Allen should have been benched regardless, as his poor play was hurting good defensive performances and slowing an already less-than-spectacular offense.
Allen was out for five weeks and was almost usurped by off-the-street free agent signee Matt Barkley. Barkley was signed by the Bills after they cut Nathan Peterman and lost Derek Anderson to a concussion. The former-USC Trojan came in and sparked the Bills offense to life in a surprise 41-10 win over the New York Jets. Barkley completed 15 of 25 passes for 232 yards and two scores in what was probably the most complete quarterback performance for Buffalo in 2018. Still, Allen retained the job and returned to the lineup a week later.
Warming Up Down The Stretch
Allen benefitted greatly from sitting and learning for five weeks. In December alone, he threw for 1,082 yards, seven touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He also posted a 70.6 passer rating and completed 53.1 percent of his passes in that five-game span. While not particularly impressive upon first glance, it was a considerable improvement from the beginning of the season. His average of 216 passing yards per game was a marked improvement over his mark of 124 average in his previous eight games.
Yet Allen was most valuable on the ground. He rushed for 377 yards on only 41 carries and scored four touchdowns in December alone. That’s 129 more yards than former All-Pro running back David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals had over the same span.
Perhaps his best game was in a 16-14 home victory over the Detroit Lions. Allen managed the game effectively and limited his errors and wild throws. His stat line wasn’t overly impressive, throwing for only 204 yards and a touchdown, but he remained composed and did everything he needed to, ensuring a Buffalo win.
Allen ended his 2018 campaign on a high note. He accounted for five total touchdowns in a week 17 win over the Miami Dolphins. The performance was solid but came against a cooked Miami team that was useless against the pass. Still, Allen showed enough in his final five games to prove that he at least belongs in the NFL.
Does this mean that he’ll reach the upper-echelon of quarterbacks within the next few years? The jury is still out on that. While there were a lot of good moments and flashes of potential, Allen had his fair share of struggles. His week 16 performance in a 24-12 loss to the New England Patriots was indicative of this. He had issues with accuracy and tossed two puzzling interceptions, not great against the 22nd ranked pass defense of 2018.
Looking ahead, Allen projects to be a solid NFL starter. The Bills envision him as a Cam Newton-esque player, and that has been the case this year to a degree. Both are exceptional runners, have a large frame, and have cannons for arms. They also struggle with accuracy and can be a little wild at times. Allen isn’t the same passer at this point as Newton is, but they are stylistically similar.
The accuracy issues are still troubling, as Allen sat at the top for the highest rate of off-target throws.
— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) January 1, 2019
He also struggled a lot with anticipatory throws and using the correct velocity on certain throws. These issues were slightly diminished as the year ended, but are still there.
Allen showed enough good to warrant hope for the future. He probably should have ridden the bench most of the year due to him starting the year out so raw. The question now is if he can take what he learned on the fly and take a bigger step as a sophomore.
The Bills will have plenty of cap room in 2019, and the front office has a chance to surround Allen with better offensive talent. If they can acquire a wide receiver to go along with late-bloomer Zay Jones and rebuild the running game, Allen will have what he needs to take steps towards being a franchise quarterback.
If we don’t see a marked improvement in his decision-making, there will be cause for concern. The Bills put all of their eggs in Allen’s basket and if he doesn’t pan out in regards to where they drafted him, jobs could be on the line. There’s still enough murkiness in Allen’s overall game that could indicate he may not hit his full potential.
Still, his performance in the final five games of the season has shown he’s capable of developing into a solid quarterback at the least. Only time will tell if Allen can become a really good or even great one. Everything has to fall into place perfectly, but there’s at least some hope at One Bills Drive for the first time in a long while.
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