Taming Josh Allen’s Arm: How Mechanical Tweaks Have Buffalo’s QB Primed for a Year 3 Leap


Of all the quarterbacks who have come out of the NFL Draft over the last few years, none had more work to do than Josh Allen. He was known for having a howitzer of an arm but very little control over that arm talent, which has led to inaccuracy and placement issues. When he entered the league, Allen knew that his mechanics would be a work in progress and that it started from the ground up.

The biomechanics of throwing are often referred to as “kinematic sequencing.” According to pitching and QB guru Tom House, that consists of the legs, hips, shoulders, and arm. So, coming into the league in order for Allen to improve his accuracy or placement, he would need to improve his footwork because that’s the starting line for throwing.

Over the past two offseasons, Allen has worked with QB specialist Jordan Palmer and has worked on “quieting” his lower body down. There were times in college and into his rookie season when something as simple as dropping back was an issue. At times, he was too quick in his drop, out of control, and hopping at the top of drops. These things set up a quarterback for failure when it comes to throwing the ball accurately because their balance and weight transfer are affected by these unnecessary movements.

His unstable movement in the pocket often put him on the wrong track to throw the ball. At times, he didn’t get the back arch of his foot pointed at the target like he should, which is what Dub Maddox calls “setting the hallway.” Failing to ‘set the hallway’ throws off his balance and center of gravity, leading to inaccurate throws, like you see below. Look at where his back foot is pointed and the direction the receiver is running. His feet are not in sync with the direction of his target, so his entire body weight is pointed at 12 o’clock, yet his arm has to adjust at the release point to account for the 2 o’clock direction the receiver is running. That’s counterproductive.

Balance and weight transfer have always been Allen’s biggest issues, and I noted them in my initial scouting report on the talented QB.

  • Can lose control of footwork at times, which can cause accuracy issues when he needs to pull the trigger quickly.
  • Over-shifts weight or is off balance at the top of his drops, so he has to gather his balance prior to throws, and it doesn’t always happen smoothly, which leads to inaccuracy.

While completion percentage is not the true measurement of accuracy, Allen is aware of how important his completion percentage is to the team. “I keep seeing the stat when I complete over 60% of my passes we haven’t lost, so I think that’s the goal,” Allen recently told the media. The Bills are 11-0 in these games.

Allen finished 2019 completing 58.8% of his passes, an improvement from 52.8% in 2018, but it’s still one of the worst in the league. While the Bills gave Allen new weapons in John Brown, Cole Beasley, Dawson Knox, and others to help him naturally improve his statistics, some of the work Allen did with Palmer definitely helped him improve, as well. Allen processed defenses more quickly, which can be reflected in his improvement from 3.2 seconds to 2.94 in time-to-throw, per Pro Football Focus.

If Allen wants to hit his goal of completing 60%, he will need to be more accurate, and in order to do that he will need to continue to focus on improving his kinematic sequencing, and it appears that he got some pointers on that from former Cowboys QB Tony Romo.

“I got a chance to talk to Tony Romo at the Super Bowl and we talked a lot about mechanics,” Allen told reporters last week. “Just kind of keeping my head a little stiller (head control), keeping my left arm tighter, and kind of rotating my body around on an axis. It’s been paying off.”

Allen is “focusing on being more upright and balanced,” during his delivery and “using hips and rotational power instead of weight transfer,” per Tony Racioppi a QB and NFL Prep Coach. Racioppi trains quarterbacks, one of which is Bills QB Davis Webb, a player-coach type in the Bills QB room. Racioppi states that QBs want to be “balanced, rotational passers,” and in order to do that you have to address each level of sequencing. Putting the ball exactly where the QB wants to maximize yardage after the catch is heavily dependent on balance and posture.

Head Control

Balance and posture are linked to head control. Justin Macdonald from Authority Football states that “the body goes where the head goes, and the head goes where the eyes go.” So if Allen is consistently scanning from left to right in no particular progression, his head will be off and his body will be, too. We saw that from time to time last year with Allen, where he would skip over his second option in a progression to get to the third across the field or attempt to hit a go route late in a play 30-40 yards down the field and miss by a mile. House states that eyes can see 32-34 frames per second, but most of the activities with a QB are a picture that count – take place at 1/250-of-a-second.

There were also occasions when Allen’s eye placement pre-snap set him up for failure; he admitted as much to Tony Romo just a few weeks back after examining his 2019 film. He asked himself “why are my eyes in this place? Why did I start to the left side when I knew it was Cover 2, and I should have started to the right?” This undoubtedly will affect Allen’s head control post-snap because if Allen has his eyes on the wrong side of the field pre-snap, post-snap he has to adjust, and that complete scan of the field will cause his eyes to jump and affect his tracking.

The lack of head control leads to the body trying to balance out, which obviously can affect balance and posture. This is a major issue because, according to Tom House, head control is responsible for when a QB misses left or right (versus high or low). According to his studies, “for every one inch of inappropriate head movement, it causes QBs two inches of the release point.” House demonstrates head control and how it affects a pitcher’s accuracy here. The key to the towel drill is that the pitcher must have his head and eyes on the “target” (hand of the player kneeling). When he doesn’t, it throws off the accuracy of the pitch.

Why is this an important distinction? Because Allen’s placement is something that has to massively improve. Take a look at his general accuracy, per Pro Football Focus. But keep in mind, in my opinion, this is a very subjective method of analysis but a great visual aid. His placement is only 53% accurate, according to their graph, which is one of the lowest in the league. But if we look at the areas that House believes affect head control, you can see how Allen has plenty of room to improve. Let’s start with catchable passes but ones where the placement was slightly off. This is important because these kinds of passes hinder yardage after the catch. Allen is rated ‘elite’ on ‘back’ passes, and ‘average’ on ‘front’ passes. So, if Allen can improve his accuracy by bringing in some of those ‘front’ and ‘back’ passes into the ‘accurate’ portion of a receiver’s frame, then his completion percentage and overall statistics would improve. If Allen can improve by “tightening the group”, as we say on the gun range, by improving his uncatchable passes that are ‘behind’ and ‘in-front’ by getting those at least into the target’s frame, then his consistency and completion percentage will improve in year three.



Left-Hand Tighter

Keeping the left-hand tighter also ties into balance and posture. If Allen can consistently keep that left hand close to his body during sequencing, then it’ll “keep that front shoulder closed longer and allow his hips to separate” says Racioppi. There were times in college when Allen would separate his left hand from the ball and it would be out in front of him.

QB specialist Justin Macdonald used the analogy of walking a tight rope. To gain balance you put your hands out, and sometimes your left hand will go low, which means your right hand will go up to maintain balance. With Allen’s arm and hand away from his frame, his right hand, elbow and shoulder have to “balance” or “make it right.”

Instead of the throwing motion being over the top, it ends up being sideways, more like a slapping motion, according to Macdonald. This is a motion that Dub Maddox refers to “tilting and slashing.” That’s a posture and movement that can lead to inaccuracy and inconsistent accuracy.

His entire body will not be working in unison towards the target, and it will throw off his balance, leading to inaccuracy. According to House, it’s this type of issue that leads to high or low throws, and something he had to correct on Tom Brady (Entire video).

Every quarterback has their own version of keeping their hand over the front-side foot and “taking a bite out of a burger,” as you can see from the images below:

Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports


Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports


Look closely at Romo’s left hand as he delivers to Cole Beasley. As soon as he separates his hand from the ball he tucks that arm close to his body. That delivery is tight and what helped Romo complete 65.3% of his passes over the course of his career.

At times, Allen does keep his left arm in and elbow low near his body to keep a good throwing posture.

Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

But consistency is key and something that Allen has to work on. Because that slight of an adjustment can throw off his entire throwing motion and be the difference between a pass that sails high for an interception or low into the dirt at the feet of his target.


Courtesy of Justin Macdonald

Here’s a snapshot of his delivery this summer, courtesy of Joe Croom:

Allen’s inconsistent mechanics can possibly explain why he overthrows 8.2% of his throws and underthrows another 4.6%, per PFF.

What’s scary about this specific mechanic is that a lot of QBs work on it in order to gain velocity. By keeping the left arm tight to the body and elbow low, you’re not only helping balance and posture, but you are generating a tighter rotation. Macdonald states that by “bringing the elbow in (and low), it engages the core, tightens everything up, and creates more torque in the movement AROUND the spine (transverse plane).” Keeping the elbow in and low also naturally forces the right arm and elbow to elevate, which creates the ideal throwing motion in order to nail down the proper kinematic sequencing. This will lead to fewer throws that are high or low. Macdonald adds that the faster the body can basically move (rotation wise) 90-degrees from one point to the target, the more power you have, and therefore the more velocity is created.”

Does Allen need more velocity? No, he’s been known to throw the ball 62 miles per hour and has a “load to release” on par with Tom Brady. But by tightening up the rotation around his spine by bringing that left arm in and elbow down, it will help improve his velocity AND accuracy. This can come in handy on throws where he is half-a-click late and needs to tap into his sequencing to fire a ball in there to keep the timing of the play on-schedule.

Allen’s mechanics have drastically improved since entering the league, but his throwing motion is far from efficient. At times, he relies heavily on his pure arm talent to execute a play rather than nailing down efficient kinematic sequencing.

His competitive fire, growth mindset, and natural talent make him a unique player. By improving his head control and keeping his left arm close to his body, Allen is hoping to improve his placement in the short and intermediate areas and to massively improve his deep-ball placement. Allen completed 64% of his passes behind the line of scrimmage up to 19 yards in 2019, per Sports Info Solutions. But he only completed 24.6% of his passes over 20 yards. That’s because the inability to keep his head still and left arm tight to the body leads to, at times, 1-2 inches or more off-target throws.

If Allen can “drop a pin” on the field deep, fix his eyes on that location, keep his head still, and keep his left arm in and low, this will in turn keep his shoulders level and enact proper balance throughout his kinematic sequencing.

This will lead to better accuracy and placement, which will in turn help him reach his goal of completing 60% of his passes.