Mark Schofield’s RSP NFL Lens QB Josh Allen (Bills): The Double-Edged Sword of Arm Talent

Rookie Scouting Portfolio contributor Mark Schofield showcases an impressive display of arm talent form Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen and explains why the decision-making process behind the throw is a potential obstacle in Allen’s development track.  

Football is a funny game. For many players facing a transition to the professional game after their lives as collegiate stars, that humor is a bit dark.

Perhaps your athleticism was enough to get by and be successful in the Big 12, but on NFL Sundays you find everyone else is just as athletic, so you need to find another way to be successful. Perhaps your arm strength was sufficient for life in the Big Ten, but Jalen Ramsey is not a Big Ten cornerback.

Perhaps your arm strength was otherworldly in the Mountain West Conference, but when adjusting to life in the NFL you cannot rely on arm strength alone.

That is the dilemma facing Josh Allen right now. The rookie quarterback for the Buffalo Bills certainly has arm talent. The velocity he is able to generate on throws is certainly impressive and it has translated to the pro game. But his arm strength is a double-edged sword that may be stunting his growth. He still believes that his arm can bail him out of any situation, and rather than speed himself up on the mental side, he continues to rely on his arm to make up for any delay in his decision-making. We see that on this incompletion against the Green Bay Packers:

This is still, in a vacuum, an impressive throw. Incredible velocity into a tight window with okay – but not precision – placement. The issue is that by waiting, by making a slow decision, he increases the level of difficulty for himself and his receiver Andre Holmes (#18). Football is already a difficult game, there’s no reason to make it harder for yourself and his teammates.

Allen might be ahead of where some expected him to be at this point in his rookie season, but his arm, while impressive, might be holding him back a bit. He needs to learn to trust his eyes, trust his decision-making, and not rely on pure velocity to bail him out of every situation. If he learns to do that, the developmental path will become an easier one.

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