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Josh Allen can evade pressure and escape the pocket with ease.
He can use his legs to carve up defenses at will.
And he can fire the football with pinpoint accuracy to well-covered receivers.
At any moment, on any given gameday, Allen reminds us all why the Buffalo Bills traded up five spots to draft him in 2018. But far too often, those flashes are just that — fleeting and far too inconsistent for a team looking to make a second-half playoff push.
The prevailing talking point among the Bills’ hierarchy last week was that Allen was 10-5 in games in which he started and finished. And then, the struggling Philadelphia Eagles came to town and bullied the Bills in a 31-13 victory. Sunday’s embarrassing showing does not fall on Allen’s shoulders alone, of course. If anything, Sean McDermott’s defense — a unit that boasted earlier in the week to Yahoo Sports that it was far better than people realized — looked lost and completely outclassed.
But on a day when the Bills' strength (its defense) needed to be bailed out, Allen and the offense could not do its part.
By halftime, Buffalo trailed 11-7, a deficit that should not have been insurmountable considering the home-field advantage and the blustery conditions. But it was another Allen turnover that paved the way for Philly’s first score and resulted in a lead the Eagles would not relinquish.
On the first play of the second quarter, Allen fumbled on a designed run at the Bills’ 24, and it would take the Eagles only five plays to score a touchdown en route to outscoring Buffalo 20-6 in the second half.
And soon, Allen’s steady start to the game — 8 for 13 for 74 yards and a touchdown — was quickly overshadowed by another listless, head-scratching performance by an offense that desperately needs to be better to keep pace with other AFC teams in the playoff hunt, like the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans.
Allen’s final stat line — 16 for 34 for 169 and two touchdowns — looked fine on paper. And therein lies the problem. Fine will only get the Bills so far. Worse, Allen completed only three of his final 13 pass attempts.
When the defense struggles, as it did on Sunday, Buffalo needs to know that its second-year quarterback can take control of the offense and take over a game. And, so far, Allen has yet to prove that.
The Bills entered the game expecting to make a statement.
Their defense was eager to prove it was being overlooked.
And Allen was hoping to quiet the growing concerns over his turnovers and his lack of deep-ball completions.
Instead, more questions have arisen about just how good these Bills (now 5-2) are and whether Allen can be Buffalo's next Jim Kelly. The Bills have trailed in six of their past seven games, yet their quarterback still has not instilled confidence that he can combat any deficit. Against the Eagles, Allen (three fumbles) again showed that ball security is still a major issue.
“For our offense to be super successful, I need to take care of the football,” Allen said in a sitdown interview with Yahoo Sports before the Eagles loss. “Complete the balls when necessary and our guys need to make some plays for us.”
At the time, he also noted that, despite their record, the Bills had not put “everything together yet. …When we can take care of the football, when we can run our routes on the outside and make some plays there, and when we get our running game going, when we get all those things going we can be really good.”
Allen’s struggles are not unique.
Of the five quarterbacks taken in the first round last year, it’s the four who were taken in the top 10 — Baker Mayfield (No. 1), Sam Darnold (No. 3), Allen (No. 7), Josh Rosen (No. 10) — that have either regressed or shown that they are far from a finished product. Only Lamar Jackson — the 32nd overall pick — has progressed in Year 2. And it’s because of Jackson’s impressive play that the Ravens are 5-2 and currently sitting atop the AFC North.
Allen and the Bills still have a chance to be special. They still have enough talent to make the playoffs. And they still have a chance to shock the world down the stretch.
But as of this moment, the Bills are a team still in need of an identity.
They’re a team still in need of consistency.
And they’re a team that still needs its young quarterback to play like the franchise quarterback he was drafted to be.
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