Much like we did with Lamar Jackson last year, it’s time we put aside any preconceived notions about Josh Allen.
Jackson made himself an NFL MVP candidate from the start, and what Allen is doing this season is on the same level of unexpected greatness. It’s time we said it: Allen is an MVP candidate.
This of all years, it appears that winning the MVP could be an extraordinary feat — the king of kings. Offenses are booming like post-war economies, and the riches at quarterback are simply absurd.
Whoever emerges from a field that includes Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and others will have earned it. This year’s MVP has bragging rights for being the best quarterback in perhaps the best quarterback nexus, at least through the first quarter of the season.
But dismiss Allen at your own peril. Once more on Sunday, he delivered a masterpiece. All the questions you had about him before the draft, after his first season and after his second season — he’s answered nearly every one.
Allen now has a chance to do what even the venerable Jim Kelly never did: win an MVP. It’s a shocking rise to stardom, but it must be recognized.
The player who was written off as a bad college quarterback and a major reach with the seventh pick in the 2018 NFL draft, the same one who had some tense early moments on the Bills when his old racist tweets were dug up, has become the Bills’ unquestioned leader.
Josh Allen has won over the Bills
Check out this story Bills general manager Brandon Beane told back in May on the “Pat McAfee Show,” as Beane described meeting Allen at Wyoming during a pre-draft visit:
“Everything about him screamed leadership. I think if you ask the guys on our team, whether they’re on the offensive side or the defensive side, I haven’t found anybody who just doesn’t love who Josh Allen is, on and off the field.”
And that, of course, came before Allen’s breakout season on the field this year.
Allen has 12 TDs and one pick through four games. Last season, his 16-game totals were 20 and nine. He’s up to 1,326 passing yards ... which is a little less than half his entire 2019 season total. His completion percentage is a fiery 70.9 — after failing to break the 60 plateau his first two seasons.
Adding Stefon Diggs has helped, no doubt. But Allen’s 12 TD passes have gone to eight different receivers. On Sunday, he targeted 10 different players with nine of them catching at least one ball.
And all that preseason talk about the Bills wanting to preserve Allen more by having him run less? Ha! Even after a relatively quiet day scrambling against the Las Vegas Raiders, he still scored the game-sealing touchdown on a sneak and is still on pace for a 100-carry season after 109 a year ago.
Mistakes down, big plays up
But the biggest thing is that the 4-0 Bills are winning, and they’re winning because of Allen. His four highest passing totals in his 32 career starts have come in the first four games this season.
Even after a two-fumble performance in Week 1, he didn’t throw a pick, led two late field-goal drives to ice the game and totaled three TDs. His one interception came last week against the then-unbeaten Los Angeles Rams, and most Bills fans still don’t believe it should have been called a pick.
Allen still has his breath-holding moments. He left the game briefly after an insane completion on the move before returning, took a late sack and then almost fumbled and fell over while handing off to ice the game against the Raiders on Sunday.
Every week he has a few of those no-no-no-no-no-no-YES plays that have worked out in his favor. But the truly hair-pulling ones are fewer and farther between.
Perhaps he turns into a pumpkin by Halloween. Who knows? Things change quickly in this league. But the 2020 version of Allen looks like a hyper-charged version of what we’ve seen previously.
Don’t overlook Allen’s toughness
Anyone who watched Allen last Thanksgiving against the Dallas Cowboys knows that his toughness isn’t a question. On short rest that day, he took four sacks, carried the ball 10 times — including one multiple-defender-dragging effort for a first down — and led the Bills to a huge road win that propelled them into contention.
His toughness was once more on display Sunday. When Allen completed that backhand pass to Diggs while being taken to the ground, he landed hard on his shoulder and left the game. All Allen did was come back in — with a huge brace — and barrel into the end zone for that rushing score. Can’t imagine that felt good.
One big improvement this season: Allen’s long ball. After averaging 6.5 and 6.7 yards per attempt his first two season, that number stands at 9.0.
He’s always had a howitzer for an arm, but too often his passes were scattershot. Now, Allen has become more of a passer, fully entrusted by a good coaching staff. Allen’s performance this season might get offensive coordinator Brian Daboll a head-coaching job in 2021 at this pace.
Everything is set up for a memorable Bills season. If he keeps this up and can help lead his team past Cam Newton’s Patriots, that has to help cement Allen’s MVP case. The Bills also have games against Mahomes’ Chiefs and Wilson’s Seahawks, so winning the head-to-head battles can’t hurt either.
We’ll see where Allen’s 2020 season ends. But the way it has started, with Allen up among all the NFL’s great passing leaders and his team undefeated, leaving him out of the MVP discussion would be a mistake.
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