By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
When Josh Allen came into the National Football League, the hype was all about his arm strength and deep ball prowess. And the arm is definitely legit. But the Bills rookie quarterback has proven to be an NFL-caliber threat with his legs, too.
That could present a problem for the Patriots defense. They’ve consistently struggled against quarterbacks who can run, particularly if they’re a dual-threat type with their arms and legs in tandem. Bill Belichick noted on Wednesday that big plays have been the biggest difference between the Bills now and last time they played the Patriots, and they’ll have to worry about Allen completing those in a variety of ways.
“He’s big, he’s fast, he’s got a strong arm, he’s accurate,” said Belichick. “He can stand in the pocket and throw. He can get out. There’s some designed runs. There’s some quarterback scrambles or some scrambles that are runs or he scrambles and extends plays and throws it.
“I don’t know. He’s a hard guy to defend. I mean, he had almost three quarters of their total offense against the Jets. It’s a lot.”
So about that game against the Jets. He was just 18-of-36 passing for 206 yards and no touchdowns to go with two interceptions through the air, but on the ground he gashed them for 101 yards on nine (!) carries and a rushing touchdown. A lot of it came on those aforementioned scramble plays.
You can see pretty clearly why the Jets had trouble with Allen when he tucked and ran. They didn’t stay in their rush lanes enough, left the short-middle area of the field wide open, and over-pursued him without closing. Watch as he makes two defenders miss and take off for a fairly breezy 31 yards.
He’s been dangerous in the red zone, too. Even against the Lions, who held him to just 16 yards on nine carries, Allen was able to get in the end zone with his legs. And the Lions actually prepared better for him by, you know, defending the middle of the field.
But on his touchdown against Detroit, he jukes Jarrad Davis after the inside linebacker decides to try to close in on him while spying. Hopefully, if this is someone like Dont’a Hightower or Kyle Van Noy in the same spot, they can simply make the tackle.
That’s the thing with this kid. Defending him can be fairly simple, but not necessarily easy. To not be the Jets, it’s as simple as having more of a presence in the middle of the field. Keep someone in his zip code. It’s still going to be a challenge to diagnose plays properly and pursue him as a runner at the right times, while also being cognizant of how he can beat them with his arm.
This should also be a point of emphasis for the safeties, who will likely be depended on to man the intermediate areas and become that last line of defense against Allen breaking off those big runs.
Again, a simple idea. But against a 6-foot-5 quarterback who can scamper a bit, not always easy.
“You’ve just got to man up. You’ve just got to tackle him,” said Patrick Chung on Wednesday. “He’s just like a running back or a tight end or someone who we’re trying to tackle anyway. Regardless of how good the quarterback is running, you’re still going to tackle him. So you don’t go about anything differently. You just go out there and just play.”
Hopefully, the results are different against this mobile quarterback than they’ve been against others. The Patriots are allowing a league-worst 6.45 yards per carry against quarterbacks, per data from CBS Sports.
If Allen is going to slip up against the Patriots, it’ll likely be in the passing game. If they can get real pressure on him and force errant throws that lead to interceptions, the Bills will obviously have a bad time. But it’s also going to be important to stay disciplined enough to keep Allen contained as a runner, especially in the front-seven. The Lions were mostly able to stifle Allen on the ground, and even they gave up a touchdown.
Simple, but not easy.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.