FOXBORO -- How is it that the Patriots are concerning themselves with a rookie quarterback who on a good day barely cracks 200 yards passing?
That's been the case this week at Gillette Stadium as Bill Belichick's defense gets prepared to take on Josh Allen -- he of the 204 yards passing and the 89.3 rating (third-highest rating of the season) in a win over the Lions last weekend -- and the Bills on Sunday.
"He’s big, he’s fast, he’s got a strong arm, he’s accurate," Belichick said earlier in the week. "He can stand in the pocket and throw. He can get out. There’s some designed runs. There’s some quarterback scrambles or some scrambles that are runs or he scrambles and extends plays and throws it. I don’t know. He’s a hard guy to defend. I mean, he had almost three quarters of their total offense against the Jets (206 yards passing, 101 rushing). It’s a lot."
Allen was the epitome of the unrefined bag of quarterbacking tools coming out of Wyoming back in the spring. At 6-foot-5, 237 pounds he ran a 4.75-second 40-yard dash at the combine, vertical jumped almost 34 inches and broad jumped almost 10 feet. Picture a move tight end with among the strongest arms to come out of the draft in recent memory.
According to Patriots safety Patrick Chung, that’s how the Patriots defense will approach bringing him down in the open field.
“You've just got to man up,” Chung said. “You've just got to tackle him. He's just like a running back or a tight end or someone who we're trying to tackle anyway.”
Allen is more likely to scramble than any quarterback on football, taking off on runs that weren’t designed to be runs 16 percent of the time. When he does scramble, he’s averaging about 10 yards per carry and almost seven yards after contact per carry.
Because he’s such a threat to run, the Patriots (largely a man-to-man team in coverage) may play more zone against Allen in order to have more eyes in the backfield reading the quarterback than there would be with defenders focused on their individual assignments across from them.
Of course those long runs that get into the secondary could be stopped before they ever get going if the Patriots front can keep Allen in the pocket.
They executed their “crush rush” to bear perfection against the Packers and Aaron Rodgers earlier this season and could look to do something similar Sunday. If they try to carry speed to the edge and pressure that way, Allen is more than capable of hurting the Patriots the way Mitchell Trubisky did in Chicago.
Through the air, Allen and the Bills are far from prolific, but receiver Robert Foster is averaging a whopping 25.8 yards per catch in his last four games, and Patriots players have noticed that offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has cooked up plays for his quarterback to stretch the field vertically whenever he can.
In a way, Patriots defensive backs explained, you almost have to recalibrate your feel for how far a quarterback can throw when facing an arm talent like Allen’s. Being “deeper than the deepest” is never suggestion, but in a matchup like this one it’s etched in stone as a coaching staff commandment.
Don’t allow a back-breaking explosive play through the air... Don’t allow a demonarizing quarterback scramble at the wrong time...
For a players with some impressively ugly numbers in certain categories — Allen was last in the league in quarterback rating coming into the week, and third-to-last in rating from inside the pocket — he has the ability to scare a defense in various ways.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.