At 6-foot-5, 237 pounds, Josh Allen is the last QB defenders want to see barreling towards them with a full head of steam.
Allen, whose breakout campaign has him in line for his first Pro Bowl nod and a part of the MVP conversation, has spent the past week preparing for a tough San Francisco 49ers defense that, in turn, has further familiarized itself with what the Bills’ dual threat is all about.
In the eyes of 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, the third-year pro’s size and skill set calls to mind another mobile 6-foot-5 signal-caller currently making his living six hours east of Buffalo.
“He’s like a young Cam Newton. Obviously, Cam can still throw and still do all that stuff, but he’s a load to tackle,” Saleh said Friday, via the team’s official transcript. “They run him, I mean, it’s basically like Wildcat offense. They’re doing a lot of you just snap the ball, run power with him which is surprising. More guts than I would with a franchise quarterback, but he makes it work.”
While serving as the Seahawks defensive quality control coach from 2011-13, Saleh had the displeasure of figuring out how to contain Newton during his age-23 and 24 seasons. That preparation yielded positive results as Seattle rendered him largely ineffective in wins against Cam’s Panthers in 2013 and 2014. Newton did best the Jaguars during his 2015 MVP season, though, when Saleh was the team’s linebackers coach.
Six weeks after trouncing Newton’s Patriots, Saleh’s group will look to do the same against Allen which will be a big ask given the year he’s had. Despite hitting a bit of a rough patch, Allen has utilized his arm strength and mobility to great effect; he currently ranks seventh in pass yards (3,028) and sixth in rush yards (311) among QBs.
Saleh is not only well aware of every way Allen likes to make defenses pay but he also believes the 24-year-old shares one of those abilities with another former MVP in Patrick Mahomes.
“He drops back to pass. He has tremendous pocket presence and he’ll sit in the pocket. It’s not like he’s looking to run out of there,” he said. “He will go through his progressions. When it’s time to scramble he’s not scrambling to run, he’s scrambling to throw, but if it all breaks down, he’ll still run. He gains ground in a hurry. He’s extremely fast, very agile, very mobile.
“He is hard to bring down because he’s such a bigger body, but he is talented. He can throw the ball on his back foot just as far as Mahomes, I bet, and he’s got the receivers to throw to. So, an extremely talented group, [offensive coordinator Brian Daboll]’s doing a phenomenal job putting them in position to be successful.”
Saleh’s praise was as amiable as it was insightful but, when the teams meet on Monday Night Football, his observations will be mentioned only as part of the game plan. Depending on how things unfold, Allen’s first clash against the Niners could boost his case to be the next one to sit on the throne once occupied by Newton and Mahomes.
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