Week 1 of the 2018 NFL season is in the books and boy, was it a forgettable week. The Buffalo Bills got their tails whipped and they already have to go back to the drawing board. But that happens every week whether you win or lose. That’s the name of the game. But after another shoddy performance by second-year quarterback Nathan Peterman, Bills fans are now wondering if they should just start rookie Josh Allen?
I’d like to think I am a very transparent person. So for that sake, I will lead with this. I had a second-round grade on Allen.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”22″]His best fit, especially in year one and two, will be with a run-heavy team, a team with a well respected running back that will force defenses to continuously stack the box and allow Allen to use his play action skills and live arm to stretch the field vertically. He will especially benefit with receiving options that can separate with their speed or are able to recognize the scramble drill, as Allen will struggle to process coverages early and likely look to make plays outside of the play structure. I believe that Allen still is a year or two away and will benefit tremendously if brought along slowly.[/perfectpullquote]
I thought he was a high variance player at a position where you typically can’t have to win consistently in this league. A guy coming from Wyoming, that needed to be brought along slowly.
As camp and the preseason progressed, his talent stood out but the organization chose to roll with Nathan Peterman. It was the correct decision as Peterman was arguably one of the best quarterbacks in all of the NFL in that span. Completing 80.5% of his passes for 431 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Oh, don’t forget the lofty 10.5 yards per attempt for a guy that is a small ball type passer.
But as they say, it’s preseason. Peterman again, failed to finish a game he started. The Pitt alumn was yanked in the third quarter. Peterman finished 5/14 for 24 yards and two interceptions. While fans expected him to have some struggles as well, most imagined that his diagnosis of coverages and 2.18 seconds snap to throw trigger from the preseason would mitigate some of the offensive line issues. But the regular season is a different animal. Defensive coordinators can exploit a young quarterback’s weaknesses in so many ways. And defensive coordinator of the Ravens, Dom Martindale did just that.
He knew that the offense wanted to get the ball out of Peterman’s hands, so they basically baited him. They used obvious blitz looks so that Peterman would pick up on it and get rid of it where they wanted him to. Here they show blitz, it gets picked up but because Peterman saw it he looks for the 1 on 1 coverage. The Ravens weren’t worried about deep shots to Buffalo wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin – completing 50/50 or deep shots to him are low percentage plays. The offensive line picks up the blitz but the decision to throw to Benjamin was a quick one and Peterman may have missed a guy deep.
Almost as if they baited him to throw it to the 1 on 1. Stacked the safety tight to Suggs. Send Suggs, Peterman sees it and shoots it deep. If only he had waited another second... pic.twitter.com/ORjrZGTs7q— Cover 1 (@Cover1) September 11, 2018
Blitzes and simulate pressures only added to the philosophy of get the ball out of his hand.
3rd and 14, simulated pressure. Cover 3. Throw is late and very dangerous. pic.twitter.com/mjMIJVlPMO— Cover 1 (@Cover1) September 11, 2018
What was frustrating was that when the offense got favorable looks, Peterman was unable to make completions to wide open receivers.
The O gets a favorable look here. Cover 3 blitz-3 deep, 3 under. Peterman reads it well, the dig by KB is perfect vs single high but bad mechanics lead to a high throw. Lead foot placement doesn't allow hips to roll through, tilts shoulders, slashes, leaves trail ft behind.. INT. pic.twitter.com/jhyVPrIWdu— Cover 1 (@Cover1) September 11, 2018
Would Bills be smart to roll with Josh Allen?
So if week one is a snapshot as to how the season is going to go, would it be wise to just throw Josh Allen in there? Is it the right decision given his strengths and weaknesses? Does he have a strong running game or weapons that he can lean on? Will he revert to “hero ball” like he did in college when he also lacked weapons around him? More importantly, does he have the mental toughness to plow through the rough times that are bound to arise?
Most of those questions are debatable or unknown at the moment but I will admit, Allen’s mental toughness and poise flashed far more than his arm strength thus far.
Josh Allen, the rookie, sat all week in meetings as the backup but had to prepare as if he was a starter. He then gets thrown into the game versus a top ten defense. Yes, the score is 40 to 0 at this point, but the Ravens starters are in and they are attempting to maintain the shutout. The play is 2nd and 5 inside the ‘green zone’, on his second drive of the game. The Bills align in a 3×1 set and run a high/low of linebacker Clint Mosley. As Allen drops, edge defender Zadarius Smith and defensive tackle Michael Pierce use power moves to create pressure. But Allen does a good job of keeping his eyes downfield, slightly climbing in the pocket, keeping his feet alive by lightly bouncing on the balls of his feet, ultimately standing tall in the pocket in order to deliver the pass to WR Benjamin near the back of the end zone. Benjamin drops it and the Bills have to eventually settle for a field goal. This is a tough situation where Allen showed off tremendous poise under pressure and maintained strong mechanics to execute.
Flash forward to the next drive, Allen and the offense face a 3rd and 10 at their 18-yard line. Allen takes the snap, surveys the field and realizes that WR Benjamin and RB Murphy are eliminated as options. The strong safety jumps the route by Murphy and that the deep safety bails to help on Benjamin. So he finds his third option in this concept, the deep over route run by WR Jeremy Kerley. Kerley sees the soft spot in the zone where the defenders vacated. Allen with his eyes downfield and two pass rushers crossing his face and going in separate directions slides, finds a platform to throw and unleashes a bullet to Kerley. The location is solid, if he is led out anymore ahead his head is probably taken off. Unfortunately, right guard is called for a hold. This isn’t the easiest coverage to diagnose pre to post snap, but Allen did what he could to extend the play within the pocket.
This was one of 10 penalties for 100 yards that the offense faced, an obstacle that the offense will have trouble overcoming consistently with the talent they have. So how did Josh Allen handle it?
3rd-and-19 from the nine-yard line. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll sends out 11 personnel and aligns them in a 3×1 set. The defense is in off and soft coverage and showing two safeties high. Post snap the picture changes as the defense drops into a single high coverage known as cover 3 buzz. The Ravens only send four rushers, but the explosive pass rusher Tim Williams gets a great jump and quickly gets right tackle Jordan Mills‘ footwork out of whack. With his back foot hitting the goalline at the top of the drop, Allen senses the pressure while simultaneously hitching up into the pocket as he moves on in his progression, an example of a QB’s feet matching his eyes. Williams spins back inside and is likely being held, so Allen gains depth BACK to his end zone to get away from the rusher. He then finds a secondary pocket and platform to throw from so that he can set and push the ball downfield to Thomas who had extended his route.
This play was a scary moment but really showed off Allen’s pocket presence, composure and physical traits. Does the situation, play or game look too big for him?
While I believed the team should bring Josh Allen along slowly prior to the season, I can honestly say I am honestly swaying towards just playing him. What changed my mind? His mental fortitude. His ability to remain poised in stressful situations, navigate the pocket, extend in and outside the structure of the play but ultimately being able to sort through obstacles in ways that can help the team win.
2nd and 10, 19 seconds left...It wasn't all prevent defense. pic.twitter.com/FG9KjEdDbx— Cover 1 (@Cover1) September 11, 2018
Is he going to struggle? Yes, but every quarterback does and the more reps you get in those high-stress situations, the better you become. Fans are going to have to live with him missing open targets, pulling it down too soon, inaccurate passes and turnovers.
The #Bills attempted a lot of iso routes to KB and others on 3rd down. QB would take the snap and read the DBs leverage, throw it deep or 50/50 type ball. Allen is indecisive here, doesn't throw it and looks to escape. All while Clay comes open over the middle. pic.twitter.com/wEFSEalDzZ— Cover 1 (@Cover1) September 11, 2018
But he has shown that he can bounce back from those low points, Josh Allen has shown that he can push through tough times and learn from them.