‘Tis the season for overscrutinizing. With Reese’s Senior Bowl week wrapping up, let’s dive right into the Allen Report.
The players made their first impressions in Mobile, Alabama, at the microphone, as they met with media early in the week. The initial indication from the national media was that Allen is very, um, confident.
Many of Allen’s most-circulated quotes stemmed from an interview with Cleveland radio duo Bull & Fox. Allen echoed ESPN’s Mel Kiper’s notion that “stats are for losers” (itself a sentiment shared by Bill Belichick). Allen said he’d welcome being drafted by the Cleveland Browns first overall, which Kiper recently projected: “I want to be the guy that turns around the Cleveland Browns. The guy that does that is going to be immortalized in Cleveland forever.”
Allen appeared to have done his homework on Cleveland, saying “I know they’ve got the youngest team in the NFL, they’ve got the most cap space, the most high draft picks, brand new GM (John Dorsey) who has done a lot of good things in his past.”
Allen addressed the statistical slide he had in 2017 with the Cowboys: “There wasn’t a lot of senior leadership on this team this year as opposed to last year. I didn’t really have to say much (in 2016). I just went out there and I did my thing. But this year was different. I had to put everybody on my back and say, ‘Listen, guys, we’re going to go do this, and we’re going to do it right.’ The team really bought into what I had to say. I love those guys to death. Those are my brothers right there.”
Allen also said in Mobile that he shares a gunslinger-like mentality with Green Bay legends Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers — another point relayed by many as evidence of Allen’s self-conceit. To be fair, though, Allen was described as a gunslinger before ever taking a snap as Wyoming’s full-time starter.
For all his perceived cockiness, Allen made some room for humility, too: “There’s still a lot of work to do,” he said. “I’m not the perfect prospect, let me tell you. I got a lot to work on and I’ll be the first to admit that. I’m not going to sit here and say I know everything about everything. I definitely have work to do. The thing is, I’m willing to admit that. I’m willing to go to work and fix everything I need to fix.”
And for all the comparisons surrounding Allen — Ben Roethlisberger is a hot one of late, given Cleveland’s hire of former Steelers O.C. Todd Haley — the Wyoming quarterback did drop this line at a news conference: “I’m not big into comparisons. I like being Josh Allen.”
One of the biggest criticisms of Allen has been his sub-60 completion percentage at Wyoming. He said that number was misleading: “I’m way more accurate than that shows. That’s what I’m cleaning up in this offseason, to show everybody that I’ve been working on that. The key to my accuracy is making sure that my feet are set right. To be a more polished throwing motion and more polished stroke. When my feet and hips are right that’s where your accuracy comes from. So getting out there in front of all the scouts and GMs, (I want) to show that.”
Allen measured in at 6-foot-4 and 7/8 inches and 237 pounds. His hand size of 10 1/8 inches was tied with Nebraska’s Tanner Lee for the largest among quarterbacks in Mobile.
But his mental tools also were under a microscope this week. Said Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage: “I think with Josh Allen, the fact that he played at a mid-major program, obviously his statistical numbers are not going to be overly impressive. Sixteen touchdowns, six interceptions. I mean, the way these guys throw it around now, there are players that have 30 and 40 touchdowns in a season. But I think with Josh, in some ways it’s going to be from the neck up. The intangibles, the leadership, I think teams really want to get to know him better from a personal standpoint.
“I met Josh down at the Manning Academy last summer in June. He was very impressive down in Thibodaux, throwing the ball around. He looks like an NFL quarterback. We were really pleased to get him into our lineup, and I think that the leadership, the intangibles, the character, all those things should check out, but the teams haven’t had a chance to talk to really any of these players. And so now they get that chance to have a face-to-face meeting and decide, ‘Is this someone that we want to represent our franchise?’”
All the speculation got put to the test as the players took to the practice field, which many consider as important if not more so than Saturday’s Senior Bowl game itself.
It seemed early on as if Allen wasn’t necessarily helping his draft stock Tuesday.
104.7 FM Denver’s Benjamin Allbright tweeted: “Josh Allen threw well very early but was off target late. Baker (Mayfield of Oklahoma) had a few wobbles early but was strong late.”
ESPN’s Todd McShay: “Up/down day from Senior Bowl QBs. Allen had wow throws but inconsistent. Baker struggled early but best in ‘team’ units. (Washington State’s Luke) Falk most consistent.”
Even Allen admitted there was room for improvement: “It was a little ugly today, and I think people kind of expect that on the first day. Like I said, we’ll come out tomorrow and clean things up.”
Not everything was clean Wednesday, though. A video tweeted by the Denver Post’s Nicki Jhabvala showed Allen and Mayfield going through a drill that had them throw a ball into targets on a net. Mayfield hit his mark while Allen overthrew the net entirely. Allen said later: “Did someone record that? The ball was a little slick, and it came out of my hand bad. It is what it is. I know I wasn’t too far away (from the net). Good thing we don’t throw to nets in games.”
Although, Optimum Scouting’s Eric Galko did call Allen a “winner” from the second day of practice, in terms of North quarterbacks.
Thursday, Allen appeared to hit his stride. ESPN’s Bill Polian commented multiple times that Allen was the North team’s most improved player in practice that day, while his fellow ESPN commentators discussed how Allen had put more touch on that ball instead of only firing fastballs.
Said NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah: “Today was his best day, and it showed off what you love about him. And that is he has that big arm to make huge throws. He’s a good athlete who can get out on the move and throw accurately on the move. But the question mark that people are concerned about is, ‘OK, you’ve got some turnovers, and then when you have to take some speed off the ball, when you have to touch it up, there’s some inaccuracy.’
“Today, you saw him change ball speeds, especially down in the red zone. Threw some beautiful balls. I thought it was by far his best practice as we ramp up toward the game. But opinions, when you talk to folks here, they’re all over the map on Josh Allen. But everybody agrees he has a special, special arm — I’m talking a huge arm — in terms of velocity.”
Perhaps that touch was reflected in the Zebra Technology tracking measurements the Senior Bowl used. Though Allen had the week’s fastest pass at 66.14 mph, he threw 51 percent of his passes at more than 50 mph on Thursday, fewer than Mayfield’s 54 percent.
Broncos head coach Vance Joseph, whose staff is coaching the North this week, remarked that he liked the placement on one of Allen’s throws to the corner of the end zone, even though it fell incomplete.
Pro Football Focus named Allen’s one-on-one long ball to Colorado State receiver Michael Gallup the best throw of this week’s Senior Bowl practices. Earlier in the week, Allen hit his former rival in the gut with a pass that left him saying, “Dang,” afterward, according to ESPN’s commentary.
But it wasn’t all positive. Said Mocking the Draft’s Dan Kadar: “Josh Allen has looked inconsistent from what I’ve seen today. It’s indicative of his college career. Some amazing plays followed by some misses.”
Allbright tweeted that more than one NFL scout told him “media is higher on Josh Allen than their teams are. ‘Two year project.’ ‘Slow processor.’ ‘Big arm, but can’t hit the intermediate stuff.’”
While it was hard to gauge any sort of consensus on Allen — perhaps that will begin to form 12:30 p.m. Saturday, when the game kicks off — Kiper saw enough to continue backing Allen, saying Friday that Allen was similar to Lions’ starter Matthew Stafford and still his top quarterback in the draft.