The comparisons between Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen and new New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton have been made since the Bills moved up in the 2018 NFL Draft to make Allen their future face of the franchise.
Allen and Newton have similar strengths and similar weaknesses. Both have special arm strength, size, and mobility that makes them a dangerous multi-dimensional threat. They are also two of the most dominant red zone weapons in the NFL.
Short and intermediate accuracy, especially within the pocket, is something neither were ever expected to be among the league’s best at. Yet, Allen actually made real progress in that area last season.
In 2019, Josh Allen’s intermediate passing (10-20 yards) was phenomenal on both sides of the field —
Right-side passer rtg (10-20):
107.7 – Josh Allen
78.6 – NFL Average
— Bills QB Watch (@BillsQBwatch) March 27, 2020
One key area, however, that Newton is among the league’s best, while Allen is among the league’s worst? The deep ball. Fixing the deep ball is what the Wyoming product needs the most to truly meet his potential.
Coming into the league in 2018, Allen was a prospect that had arm strength very few have ever had. Everyone knew accuracy was going to be an issue, so much so that Football Outsiders called him a “parody of a prospect” because of it.
Having Allen become one of the most ineffective deep ball throwers, however, was a surprise. According to Sports Info Solutions, Allen’s deep ball catchable target rate of 37% was tied for last in the league.
Improving his accuracy in other areas was a huge positive, but the Bills didn’t draft Allen to be a 68-70% passer. That isn’t who he is. If it was all that mattered, they would have drafted Josh Rosen.
They drafted Allen for the arm, the mobility, and the chunk plays. That is what made Newton a star with the Panthers for eight years.
The former Heisman winner and 2015 NFL MVP is far more accurate in all areas of the field than given credit for, but he didn’t have to be when he could pull out plays of 20-plus yards on a consistent basis.
Being accurate is one of, if not the most important trait in a good quarterback. It isn’t the only thing that makes a player great.
To use an NBA analogy, it is similar to shooting. The modern-day NBA is built around shooters. That doesn’t mean players like Giannis Antetokounmpo who shoots below 35% from outside of the paint can’t be stars, or even MVPs.
They have other elite traits that masks those other weaknesses to their game. That is what Allen’s arm strength can do, if he can learn to control it.
The good news for the Bills is Allen made good strides throwing deep at the end of the season. Week 16 in New England against the best secondary in the NFL, Allen delivered two of his best throws of the season, both of which were 30-plus yards down the field.
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) December 22, 2019
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) December 21, 2019
Allen said it himself this month: “I’m not going to be Captain Checkdown. I’m going to continue to play the game the way I love it.”
If he is going to continue to be aggressive, and maintain that “gunslinger” mentality, he will need to start hitting passes down the field at a much higher rate.
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