ORCHARD PARK, NY — Josh Allen took all six games in three minutes and 24 seconds to go 70 yards and dramatically prove to everyone he’s ready to go for the 2022 season.
That drive in a week two preseason game against the Denver Broncos ended with the Buffalo Bills quarterback crawling for 5.2 seconds before uncorking a perfect 28-yard pass to receiver Gabriel Davis for a touchdown.
“I just put my head down and did a little 360,” Allen said, trying to escape the pressure. “I didn’t really want to do that, but I knew I didn’t want to run, so I was just trying to find some space and get the ball away.”
Scrambling and running are key elements of Allen’s game. As is pocketing the football and picking up yards with your legs. Countless times in the last four seasons, the quarterback has extended a drive for the Bills by running over defenders to move the chains. He had 54 rushing first downs last season, the second most of any NFL quarterback behind Jalen Hurts of Philadelphia.
But the quick and successful preseason against the Broncos was also a reminder of how important the quarterback is to this team heading into a season with Super Bowl ambitions. For new offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, entering his first year as a calling plays, balancing the payoff of Allen’s scheduled runs with the risk of injury will be a key component to getting the most out of offense.
“It will be based on a decision we make this week about what we need to help us win a football game,” Dorsey said of the designed running games for Allen. “That’s going to be the biggest determining factor for us, obviously, is just kind of having that mindset and that philosophy, and then making sure we put ourselves and Josh in the best position to be successful for our team.”
In 2021, Allen led the Bills in first downs per rush (44.3%) and rushing first downs. His 310-above-expected rushing yards led all NFL quarterbacks, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. There’s no doubt that when Allen runs, his height — reported at 6-foot-5, 237-lbs — and his rushing skills make him difficult for defenders to tackle.
But keeping the quarterback healthy over a long season is the No. 1 priority. Allen injured his left ankle on a 23-yard streak last season in an overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but was able to stay put Game. He didn’t miss any time, but Allen walked into the post-game press conference in a boot – a reminder of the risk his running posed.
“[Allen] is more like that [quarterback] Cam Newton, but with a bigger and stronger arm,” former Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said after the game. “We talked about drafted quarterback runs being tough. I wouldn’t put my quarterback in danger that much for getting a little pinched, but they did a hell of a job with that.
Dorsey was Newton’s quarterbacks coach from 2013 to 2017, when the 2015 NFL MVP rushed for 2,873 yards over five seasons. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Allen had 60 drafted runs last season — the third most in the league. Will it continue under Dorsey?
The offense will likely look different than it did under former coordinator Brian Daboll, although the language will remain the same. The new weapons the team has brought, including rookie running back James Cook, should give the team another dynamic option on third downs, potentially making it less important to rely on Allen’s legs.
Overall, coach Sean McDermott would like the quarterback to take fewer risks.
“You have to be smart, right. And we have to be smart,” McDermott said as he ran less. “At the same time, it’s part of his game. I don’t want to take away his instincts.”
Hall of Famer quarterback Jim Kelly wants the Bills to rely less on Allen’s legs.
“I’ve already had a good conversation with Ken Dorsey,” Kelly said. “Limit the number of calls Josh has to make. I understand the tussle, but I don’t want to see him 8-10 times against a goalkeeper who came on from the touchline.”
Since 2018, only Lamar Jackson (710) has conceded more hits than Allen (610) among quarterbacks.
To bring that number down, general manager Brandon Beane wants Allen to prioritize not hitting too early in the year.
“[I’m] I just have to understand certain situations, know that the best skill is availability and when I’m running, try to come down and be safe and not take as many hits because I took a lot at the beginning of my career and I feel like that I restricted those,” Allen said in Week 14 of last season. “I don’t know if it’s a conscious effort to stay in the bag, but it’s a conscious effort to get my boys the balls.”
Beane described Allen’s mentality after the 2021 season as “a linebacker who plays football.” It wouldn’t come as a surprise to Allen and Dorsey to be picky about when the quarterback should take those risks.
“The only thing I ever attack him for is hits,” Beane said. “He can throw a pickaxe and I don’t say a word to him. That was on Dorsey, and it was on Daboll, and obviously on Sean. The only time I hit on Josh Allen was because I took an unnecessary hit. He’s still maturing and growing. I get it in the playoffs. If “you gotta have it” moments, those are the ones I don’t say anything to him. But week 3, week 5, down and out of bounds.
https://www.espn.com/blog/buffalo-bills/post/_/id/37445/should-the-buffalo-bills-be-limiting-how-much-josh-allen-is-running-the-football Should the Buffalo Bills be limiting how much Josh Allen is running the football? – Buffalo Bills Blog