Since being drafted with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen has been under the microscope.
First, it was the critics doubting his ability to ever be an effective and efficient passer in the NFL. Then, after an MVP-caliber season in 2020, those critics argued that Allen would see significant regression this year, as opposing defenses would learn how to attack and defend Buffalo’s potent passing game.
After signing a whopping $258 million contract extension during training camp, the bar for what would be considered a success for Josh Allen in 2021 was raised significantly. And through two weeks, Allen has been rather underwhelming.
Allen’s struggles in the Bills’ Week 1 loss to the Steelers were largely attributed to the effectiveness of Pittsburgh’s pass rush. T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward terrorized Buffalo’s offensive line and Allen was under duress for most of the came. He completed 30-of-51 passes for 270 yards and one touchdown. The Bills rebounded in Week 2, dominating the Dolphins 35-0 in Miami, but despite the shutout victory over a division rival, Allen’s subpar play was one of the main takeaways from the game.
Allen completed 17-of-33 passes for 179 yards, throwing two touchdowns and one interception against the Dolphins. Unable to get into a rhythm and missing throws that were routine just a year ago, Allen admitted that his inconsistent play has gotten himself into his own head. Those closest to Allen know that the fourth-year passer is his own harshest critic – and that attribute that helped him take the NFL by storm in 2020, could be contributing to some of his downfalls this year.
“It’s tough,” Allen said following Wednesday’s practice. “I just want it so bad. It’s hard to tone down that aspect. When it’s something I expect out of myself and something I can do – and do regularly in practice and have shown it – then a couple of times in the game where I miss and maybe I let it affect me too much. The best quarterbacks are the ones who can take the previous play and move on to the next. Guys make mistakes, guys miss throws, it’s how we bounce back from it that makes us who we are.”
It’s hard to call a two-touchdown performance in a 35-0 blowout concerning, but for a quarterback who’s been predicted by many to finish with a Super Bowl Ring and an MVP nod at the season’s end, fans want to see more. Allen knows that a segment of Bills fans are letting out collective groans. But he also knows that at the end of the day, his job is to win football games.
“The job of the quarterback is to put your team in a position to score points and do whatever it takes to win games,” Allen said. “That’s what we did last week. I don’t really care what anybody thinks, I care about what the guys in this locker room think. There’s no secret that I didn’t play great last week, I didn’t play great the week before but it’s something I’m working on. I’ve just got to push through it and find ways to be better.”
Last season, Allen came out of the gate swinging, completing 70-percent of his passes for 717 yards, throwing six touchdowns and zero interceptions in his first two games. He went on to finish with 4,544 passing yards and 37 touchdowns. So the dramatic dip to a 55.9-percent completion rate with 449 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in these previous two games is bringing up memories of the 2019 version of Allen – erratic, frazzled and inaccurate.
While those memories are fresh in the minds of Buffalo fans, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Allen doesn’t get back on track and begin to light up opposing defenses in the way everyone knows he can. This week, he’ll face a strong, yet inconsistent Washington defense boasting a loaded defensive line, but a young secondary without much experience playing together.
While Allen may be his own worst enemy, he’s also one of, if not the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL. And he knows that as long as he stays calm, success will come.
“I demand so much of myself. I want to execute at such a high level and when things aren’t going right I get so frustrated with myself. I’ve got to find a way to keep going, stay light for the guys and be the best leader for this team that I can be.”