As Josh Allen prepares for his fifth NFL season, his coach expects him to continue improving. Sean McDermott also wants his superstar to do it in a slightly different manner.
That is, he wants Allen to run less.
“Yeah, we want to evolve,” McDermott told NFL Network’s Judy Battista during an interview at the Annual League Meeting. “We’re always trying to evolve — on the field, off the field, schematically — and in this case with Josh’s running or the amount of times that we run him, we have to continue to evolve that way and making sure we ‘re doing right by him by doing right by our team. So, we are going to keep a close eye on that. But the one thing we will never take from Josh is his competitive nature and spirit. So, he’s gonna do it when he’s gonna do it.”
The Bills’ bruising quarterback did it more than ever last year, carrying the ball 122 times for 763 yards and six touchdowns. His 6.3 yards per carry was just decimal points below Rashaad Penny for the highest average in the league.
Allen’s combination of passing and rushing prowess, however, was unprecedented.
He became the 10th quarterback in league history to rush for 750 yards in a season. Allen is the only one to also throw for 4,000 yards in the same campaign. (He and Cam Newton are the lone QBs to top 4,000 and 600 yards in the same season, though Kyler Murray tallied 3,971 pass yards and 819 rush yards in 2020).
At 6-foot-5, 237 pounds and still just 25 years old, Allen is built to carry such a load. But at what expense? His 2021 passing numbers, while still stellar, were down across the board from the season prior while Buffalo’s scoring offense and efficiency regressed. Those numbers might be why McDermott is encouraging his young signal-caller to scale back how much punishment he takes moving forward.
“I don’t know if he likes to take it,” McDermott said. “I don’t want to say that. That’s a better question for him, but he doesn’t shy away from mixing it up from time to time.”
No kidding. Allen has topped 100 carries in three consecutive seasons and is averaging 105.5 for his career. Last year, he emerged as the Bills’ second-leading rusher behind Devin Singletary and ran for a team-high 134 yards over two postseason games.
Allen was at his best in the playoffs — also registering 637 pass yards, nine TD passes to no interceptions, and a 77.4 completion percentage. His play catapulted above even his elite peers at the QB position and surely warranted a deeper run than the AFC Divisional Round. The challenge ahead is one of change, as departed offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was replaced by Ken Dorsey. General manager Brandon Beane has also used the offseason to add depth at running back and receiver, bolster Buffalo’s offensive line and revamp its defensive front amid the arms race that is the AFC.
But for the Bills to have staying power, McDermott knows his QB must keep finding ways to get better. The lesson ahead, perhaps: less running from Allen could mean more for Buffalo.
“I think we all have to remember Josh is only going into year five, right, so I know Josh, as well as myself and Brandon and the entire team, are looking for Josh to continue to take another step,” McDermott said. “And I know Josh is committed to that. I think that’s a sign of a great leader that leads by example.”