Cleveland Browns: What is so fascinating about Josh Allen?
By Joel W. Cade
The Cleveland Browns need a quarterback. A self-admitted USC Sam Darnold fan looks at what makes Josh Allen so fascinating.
I don’t get it. I just don’t understand why people swoon when they think of Josh Allen in a Cleveland Browns uniform.
To put my cards on the table. I am for USC’s Sam Darnold in the draft. Daniel Jeremiah calls Darnold the best quarterback prospect to come out in the last three years.
After years of tanking, the Browns have won the quarterback lottery. Somewhere Sashi Brown is smiling.
The following is a real life depiction of Sashi Brown and his analytical crew as they head into draft night:
But nonetheless, as the draft approaches I struggle to figure out why Wyoming’s Josh Allen is so intriguing as a quarterback prospect. With all the speculation that Browns new general manager John Dorsey may ruin the plan by taking Allen, I felt it was time to get right with Jesus and Josh Allen before draft night.
The following is my best attempt to diagnose what is going on with Allen and why some general managers love him.
Let’s start with the 2016 game where Wyoming faces off against Northern Illinois.
A lot of things stand out here. First, he has a rocket arm. He can throw that ball 100 miles per hour. The problem is he throws the ball at the same speed regardless of the throw, route or angle.
Second, kudos to Wyoming for running a pro-style offense. The problem is that Allen’s footwork on his drops are not good. When he gets to the bottom of his drop be begins to bounce up and down. This is a tip off that his feet are not in sync with him reading a defense. This is a major issue. Allen seems to be waiting for a player to get open then rifle the ball into the spot with his rocket arm.
By itself this is not an issue. Jeff George played twelve NFL seasons with this exact same style. Like Allen, his completion percentage rose over 60-percent only three times in those twelve seasons.
Why? Good question. When a quarterback stares down a wide receiver waiting for him to get open, it tips off the defense as to exactly where the ball is going. The defense can converge to the ball much quicker than usual. As a result, all catches are contested catches making completions that much harder.
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Notice how every pass was contested in Allen’s game against Northern Illinois. He could easily blame those drops on his receivers. At times, he has. But it is more complex than that. One, the ball is coming in way too fast to catch (see DeShone Kizer 2017). Two, by staring down the receivers he tips the defense as to where the ball is going making it easier to cover receivers.
Conversely, (and here is where NFL scouts get excited) if Allen could learn to read his progressions, look off safeties and throw with some touch, then he could be an awesome NFL quarterback. His arm and size are ideal, he just needs to learn how to play the position. Allen is an ideal potential over production guy that Bucky Brooks says is John Dorsey’s type.
Any NFL coach will state they can teach him to play quarterback at the NFL level. If they didn’t think they could coach him up they wouldn’t be worth keeping as coaches. (On a side note: this same issue is occurring with offensive linemen due to the spread offense and we see how well that is going). NFL coaches will have to teach him how to play quarterback at the NFL level. But the traits are there for him to be awesome
Let’s move on to Wyoming vs Texas State in 2017. Statistically this is his best game in 2017:
Notice something different? If you said they switched from a pro-style offense in 2016 to a spread style run-pass-option (RPO) offense in 2017, then you are right. Besides being the current trend in college, why would a team switch from a pro-style offense to an RPO? The answer is most fascinating!
If I were a coach watching Allen’s film, I would begin to ask myself how can we get receivers open more. The answer? RPOs. As mentioned earlier all his throws are contested by the defense, so now Wyoming is countering by running RPOs which are designed to option players to always allow for an open receiver.
It is an interesting move by the coach. One would think they would simply teach Allen to run through his progressions, tie his feet to his progressions, look off safeties and throw with touch. But instead, they seem content to roll him out there as is and change what everyone else is doing to fit his style of play.
Related Story: Browns draft profile: Nick Chubb
In this game, there are a lot of RPO’s designed to get his receivers in open space. (For more on RPO’s see “Coaching the RPO Offense” by Hagritt and Pence). The main point is option a linebacker or other defensive player. It that player plays the run, then throw the pass. If they play the pass, hand the ball off. It is quite simple and guarantees that receivers will be open because they are optioning the coverage defender.
Allen should thrive in this system. Against Texas State, he has his best statistical game of the season. The problem was that he continues to rifle the ball to the receivers who either cannot hang on to the ball or it is wildly inaccurate and cannot get to it.
But the good news is that most of Allen’s issues are coachable. Why his coaches at Wyoming didn’t work on those things is a mystery.
Allen’s natural inaccuracy (not forced) was on display for this game. But against Iowa it comes back with a vengeance.
Did you catch it? Did you see what they did at halftime?
The first half Allen played like he did against Texas State, the difference being Iowa is much better team than Texas State.
Wyoming came out with the spread RPO offense. There were receivers open but Iowa’s much more talented team were able to stifle the Wyoming receivers from making plays in space. As the half went on, Allen began to stare down his wide receivers more often. Predictably, Iowa took advantage of the tip off and Allen. They made him look bad as a passer.
So at halftime, the coaches made the decision to go back to the pro-style offense of 2016. Re-watch the game if you need to verify what I am saying.
At that point, the Josh Allen of 2016 reappeared. Iowa was not ready for this and Wyoming initially had some success. The same one read and run tendencies of Allen reappeared and Iowa caught on quickly.
This is not to simply trash Allen as a passer. There is a point to all of this.
Josh Allen’s issues are all fixable at the NFL level.
First, his accuracy is the result of some bad footwork combined with staring down his receivers. Jordan Palmer is working on syncing his feet to reading his progressions. That alone will fix most of his accuracy issues. Some inaccuracy will remain even after the footwork is fixed.
If Allen can sync his footwork, defenses will have to defend the whole field instead of where is he looking. Once he looks off some safeties, defenders will have to play him honest which will lead to more open receivers.
Second, he can learn to throw with touch at the NFL level. Browns fans watched that happen right before their eyes with DeShone Kizer last year. It has happened before, it can happen again.
Scouts’ fascination with Josh Allen stems from his ideal size and rocket arm. He looks the part. They also see a guy who is raw in the technical parts of the game. They surmise (rightly or wrongly) that they can coach a lot of these issues out of him. Once that occurs, they will have a sure-fire hall of fame quarterback.
The enigma of Josh Allen is whether his accuracy issues return when he is under pressure. Provided they can be fixed to begin with. They can tinker with his mechanics all day long, but will he perform when under pressure? Will those mechanics hold?
Those who say his mechanics will hold see Allen as a steal at No. 1 overall.
Those who say they will not hold up see him as a colossal bust waiting to happen.
Either way Josh Allen will need a stable coaching staff to guide him through reworking his mechanics, learning to read a defense and learning to throw with touch.
Next: Top Browns first-round picks
When was the last time the Browns had a stable coaching staff?
Just saying . . .