So much great quarterback play early. Nick Foles hasn’t stepped on a field in 10 months and throws three TD passes in seven minutes Sunday in Atlanta. Russell Wilson throws for five TDs two weeks in a row. Dak Prescott’s averaging a 396-yard passing game. In 2000, five quarterbacks had a season rating of over 95. In 2010, six quarterbacks finished over 95. In 2020 (of course it’s early), 16 quarterbacks have a rating higher than 95.
No quarterback’s gotten better faster than Allen. Two plays showed that Sunday.
One: Mid-third-quarter, Buffalo ball, third-and-goal from the Rams’ 4-yard line. From Allen’s left, his go-to guy, Stefon Diggs, is singled by the Rams’ best corner, Jalen Ramsey. At the snap, Ramsey appears to gamble that the throw will be a typical throw in this part of the field, a “pylon” throw, to the front or back pylon, so he clings to Diggs. I thought Ramsey would have used the sideline to help him while cutting off the front side of the throw. But Diggs turned in and Allen, under extreme pressure, flicked his wrist, the ball landing right in Diggs’ gut. Allen had a split-second to see—for whatever reason—that Ramsey would be giving up the middle of the field, and Allen, about to get creamed, took it. “An option route, and Stefon won, and I gave him a ball where he could go get it,” Allen said. Bills, 28-3.
Two: Late fourth. Rams have come all the way back to lead, 32-28. Third-and-22 at the Buffalo 31. You could feel it slipping away for the Bills, after a big Ram sack and an Allen incompletion. Next play: “Me and Cole [Beasley], we’ve talked about this route many a time,” Allen said. Beasley’s job: find a hole in the defense. Allen rolled right, chased hard by Aaron Donald. “I don’t think there were many plays today that I didn’t feel 99 [Donald],” Allen said. On the run right, Allen flipped it three-quarter-delivery 26 yards in the air, perfect touch, into the middle of five Rams in the area, into Beasley’s gut. First down. The throw was a seeing-eye job, with the kind of placement you see from Aaron Rodgers; two years ago, Allen might have tried to throw it through Beasley and maybe sailed it. Not now. Eight plays later, after a ticky-tack interference call on the Rams on a fourth down, Allen hit Tyler Kroft for the winning TD.
So much of Allen’s off-season work showed on those throws, and it’s shown in the first 15 days of Allen’s third season. His study started at the Super Bowl, when he asked Romo what he could be doing better, and they began a back-and-forth that continued through the offseason. “I didn’t do anything,” Romo said Sunday night. “Really. Believe me. This is him.” Allen’s off-season tutor, Jordan Palmer, praised Allen for being coachable, and for working on his control, his deep-ball accuracy, and his touch. “To be make drastic changes in your mechanics, you’ve got to be coachable, and you’ve got to be all-in on the right plan,” Palmer said. “Josh worked it every day.”
“I’ve kind of been tweaking a few things in my mechanics,” Allen said, “and allowing myself to throw a better, more catchable ball. As much as I want to pat myself on the back, I had a lot of help along the way with Jordan Palmer, and with [offensive coordinator] Brian Daboll and [QB coach] Ken Dorsey and the players we brought in.”
Romo, Allen said, taught him to “feel your head is on a stake through the ground and you’re just trying to rotate it around and use [the torso] as an axis. . . . With Jordan Palmer, we worked on how to be a more rotational thrower. Then obviously, having these Zoom calls with Dorsey and Daboll and just kinda going over our offense. And I feel like I’m very in tune with what our offense is doing. I know our answers when we’re not right. I feel like I’m being put in a good situation.”
“Josh could throw a football really well,” Romo said. “I just wanted him technically to do it better.” Palmer worked with Allen daily in southern California on the technical things. In camp, he continued to be honed with Daboll and Dorsey. The results:
• Accuracy: A 56-percent passer through his first two years, Allen has completed 71.1 percent through three games this year.
• TD-to-interception differential: Through two seasons and 28 games, Allen was plus-nine. This year, he’s also plus-nine: 10 TDs, one pick.
• Passing yards per game: Up from 184.4 over his first two years to 346.0 this year.
• Yards per pass attempt: Up from 6.6 in 2018-19 to a gaudy 9.1 this season.
The explanation is wonky, but it’s worked. When you really want to be better at something, and you’re not just nodding and saying things to make the teacher happy, that’s when education happens. And the education of Josh Allen is one of the good stories of an explosive offensive season so far.
In 2018, prior to the season, Jalen Ramsey called Allen “trash.” Last year, after the Bills beat the Jaguars when Ramsey was still on the team, Allen seemed perturbed by it, signing a photo with words that included, “Am I still trash, Ramsey?” But after beating Ramsey again Sunday, Allen wasn’t stoking any fires. I asked him if there were hard feelings between him and Ramsey. “Not at all. He’s a competitor. We won the game today. That’s all that matters.”
But how, I asked, could there be no hard feelings after what Ramsey had said.
“I don’t really care about outside voices,” Allen said.
Again, good answer.