ORCHARD PARK, NY — With a lane opening in midfield, Josh Allen hid the ball and took off. Allen, then an 18-year-old quarterback for Reedley College, quickly faced four defenders approaching from all sides.
But instead of juking or sliding, Allen did something unexpected. He jumped.
“I remember the very first time and I was like, ‘Holy hell, I can’t believe he did that,'” said former Reedley offensive coordinator Ernie Rodriguez. “And then those runs and people missing. When I saw him doing it for the first time, it was maybe his very first start [against Fresno City]. And that against our rival. So it was a big game.”
Long before the Buffalo Bills quarterback made a splash in his rookie season when he rolled over then-Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr in 2018, Allen was hurdling against defensemen in junior college.
“The crazy thing is I see all these analysts and all these people on TV like I’m amazed at what [Allen] does, but I saw it every day before anyone else,” Rodriguez said. “He didn’t do that in high school, it wasn’t his thing. So the speed aspect [he brought] was a big plus. I didn’t know he was that fast, it was huge.”
Allen has become known for those “wow” moments where he seemingly effortlessly leaps over defenders. Despite a UCL right elbow injury sustained in the loss to the New York Jets, Allen’s dynamic nature as a rusher hasn’t changed. He leads the team in rushing (561) and rushing touchdowns (5) as the team prepares for a meetup at the New England Patriots Thursday (8:15 p.m. ET, Amazon Prime). The Patriots have conceded the seventh-most rushing yards to quarterbacks this season.
When asked what goes through his mind when he’s in the air, Allen was referring to the main character in the movie Talladega Nights.
“He’s very much like Ricky Bobby. ‘I’m airborne, that’s no good,'” Allen said on Kyle Brandt’s Basement podcast. “Well, it just happens. It’s like a split second deal that I’ve made a couple of times in my career now and eventually someone will get the hang of it and try to throw me up.”
In high school, Allen played a variety of sports year-round, from football to basketball to baseball. They all played a role in the jumping element of his game, which is more “backyard” style — and part of what makes him a great quarterback, according to former Wyoming offensive coordinator and Montana State head coach Brent Vigen.
“I think it’s this whole do-everything mindset,” Vigen told ESPN. “I[…]really [have] I never saw him play basketball, but I think maybe his shooting ability wasn’t great, but he could jump over some people and stuff like that. That’s the instinct I think that takes over, just like he does with someone with his throwing shoulder every now and then.”
Allen’s standout jumping moment this season came when the 6-foot-5, 237-pound quarterback jumped over Chiefs safety Justin Reid in Week 6.
Only in Buffalo💙❤️
Josh Allen’s INSANE hurdle against the Kansas City Chiefs hits the streets! This is great work by @royallen
— James Kattato (@jckattato) October 18, 2022
After this jump, a local graphic designer printed an image and placed it at the intersection of Hertel Avenue and Wellington Road in Buffalo. Hertel was rewritten as “Hurdle”.
Images of Allen jumping over things often pop up on social media, and the move always sparks big reactions on the Bills sidelines.
But what’s it like for defenders to be handicapped by Allen?
First NFL hurdle
When: September 23, 2018
location: with the Minnesota Vikings, third and 10th with the Buffalo 36
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) September 23, 2018
Allen’s first NFL jump was his first career start. It was also his first career win as a starter, despite entering the game as an underdog with 17 points. The Bills built a 17-point lead. Allen got the snap in third place as the game clock ran out. As Allen ran down, Barr bent ever so slightly to try and make the tackle. But as he did so, Allen paced back and forth.
What it was like to be driven over the hurdle: “I didn’t really underestimate him either, which is the craziest thing about it,” Barr, now with the Dallas Cowboys, told ESPN. “I still don’t know exactly where he is, you know? To be honest it was crazy. I guess that wasn’t that game, but that game was sort of his upcoming party. Obviously he’s had his ups and downs since then, but he’s a great athlete.”
The game brought the rookie national attention for doing something players in his position typically don’t do.
“Now how many quarterbacks have you ever seen handicapping someone,” CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz asked after the play.
The sidelines went crazy for Allen. Safety Micah Hyde said he thinks he ran onto the field to meet Allen, but also said, “Don’t do it again.”
“I remember he kind of ran away from me on a play too and people kind of berated me about it,” Barr said. “‘Oh, you let a quarterback pass you.’ I was like, ‘This guy is different, man. He’s an athlete now.” He earns his respect. Well deserved. I think he’s kind of paired the arm with the legs now and he’s playing at a high level. It’s unfortunate it happened to me, but hey, obviously I wasn’t the only one.”
The latest hurdle
When: October 16, 2022
location: at the Kansas City Chiefs, 20-17 behind; First-and-10 by Kansas City 28 with 2:00 in the fourth quarter
JUKE! HURDLE! JOSH ALLEN IS RIDICULOUS!
— NFL (@NFL) October 16, 2022
A game-winning drive chance against a Chiefs team that had knocked the Bills out of the playoffs for the last two years? Good chance for an exclamation mark. After the snap, Allen kept the ball himself and ran to the right past right tackle David Quessenberry, who swept left to corner cornerback L’Jarius Sneed (someone Allen skipped in 2021).
Reid moved to stop Allen as he ran to the sidelines. Not so fast.
Coolest moment for an O-Lineman? “I thought he would hold out and then keep running. I was out before him. I’m like, ‘Well I’m going to block him, he’s going to cut right behind me and we’re going to get a touchdown, it’s going to be damn all the time,'” Quessenberry told ESPN. “It was a great run from him.
“I remember seeing him from my periphery like he went up, okay, he did… And then you hear the stadium go, you’re like, ‘Oh man.’ That was definitely one of the coolest feelings as an offensive lineman, being out on the edge, feeling the quarterback and then going, ‘Oh man, this could be something cool.’
What it was like to be driven over the hurdle: “I knew he had the ability to do it,” Reid said. “It’s a shame that happened to me. But he gets paid a lot for doing plays like this. Sometimes you will do plays and sometimes he will do plays.”
After the jump, Allen gained a few more yards, including the first down. He then went back into the scrum to complete the game-winning drive.
“It’s really a split second,” Allen said of the decision to jump. “I’m just trying to make a game for our team given the situation there.”
Are Allen’s jumps worth the risk?
The safety issue of Allen’s running and jumping, like other dual threat quarterbacks like Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson, comes up often. The jumps are long and rare because they leave a runner open to big hits. When Allen picked up 21 yards with his legs in the first quarter against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, he took on Kerby Joseph, who tackled him. Allen got up and did the Conor McGregor strut to celebrate.
Coach Sean McDermott was asked mid-game on the CBS show what he’s thinking during those moments when Allen gets ready to run.
“Slide. I want him to go down more than anything…” McDermott said. “If he hits the tackler, slide.”
Allen has not missed a game since 2018.
“Honestly, he’s still looking for contact and I know the guys up there are like, ‘Hey man, please get down. Please leave the borders,'” Barr said. “He’s been dealing with some injuries and I think a lot of the reasons is because he’s looking for it, looking for the contact, which is probably not recommended. But it works for him, so more power for him.
Allen has slipped in six of his 81 rushes this season. Among five quarterbacks who have had more than 80 rush attempts this year, his slides are the second lowest, behind Jackson (zero).
What does Allen think when he takes on defenders?
“Believe it or not, the only thing on my mind is not getting hit.”
The team doesn’t want to limit his “backyard” style, while still acknowledging the importance of protecting him. Allen’s skills allow him to make a difference every week.
“I’ve never played with anyone like Josh. He’s really a very talented player, a creative footballer,” Quesenberry said. “He’s really dangerous, you know what I mean? The arms, the legs, the way he sees the game, the way he sets everything up. It’s a lot of fun to be out there with him.”
ESPN NFL Nation reporters Todd Archer and Adam Teicher contributed to this report.
https://www.espn.com/blog/buffalo-bills/post/_/id/37646/art-of-the-qb-leap-how-bills-josh-allen-brings-backyard-style-to-the-nfl Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen has mastered the art of QB leaps – Buffalo Bills Blog