With Joe Flacco abruptly sidelined for the Denver Broncos next game against the Cleveland Browns, there’s a new sheriff in town, one Brandon Allen.
Allen is a true unknown, who fans only got to see in the snoozer of a Week 3 preseason matchup where Denver faced off against the LA Rams, a game the Arkansas product started for LA.
Here’s what we found in our notes dating back to his college days at Arkansas.
The first thing that stands out about the 27-year-old is that he has a legitimate NFL arm and likes to push the ball downfield, something he’s done at all levels.
It’s easy to see why the prototypical pro-style gunslinger appealed to Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, as his arm and ability to take shots downfield off of play-action fit in perfectly. It helps that Allen had already been groomed in Sean McVay’s scheme, which is pretty close to what Denver tries to run.
The four-year pro is decisive and unafraid, as he’ll often test his luck on vertical shots or in tight windows.
While it’s part of who he is as a quarterback, the former sixth-round pick’s risk-taker mentality has hurt him too, as shown by his career 6-to-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio in the action he’s seen in NFL preseason.
When he gets hot, he can carve defenses up, but he’s shown himself to be far too inconsistent and get himself into trouble when he’s not on.
Much like Flacco, the addition of Allen to a budding quarterback room that includes Drew Lock and Brett Rypien, gives Denver nothing but big arms on the roster, all with plenty of zip to fit balls into NFL windows and more than enough power to stretch defenses vertically and attack on play action.
Now, Allen’s not super mobile and can struggle under duress, as his accuracy can be shaky on the move. Even on those bootlegs that he was so successful at, he needed to set his feet to be accurate.
Considering the problems Denver’s had in pass protection and that the now starter was a late addition to the roster, that’s quite worrisome.
His footwork can be choppy, slow and inconsistent, leading to inaccuracy issues as well. Most concerning, Allen has a weird thing about missing dump-offs or sailing easy short throws over receivers’ heads. His lower-body mechanics, IQ and accuracy underneath will all have to significantly improve, or things could get ugly.
The other thing about Allen is he’s still raw working through his progressions and at his best with half-field reads or when his primary target is in an advantageous situation.
When he has time and is comfortable, his deep-ball accuracy, anticipation, and zip are all enticing enough to make him a useful backup. When he mixes in touch, he can really be strong, but right now, he’s going to be fighting an uphill battle in this offense.
More than a test for Allen, not having Flacco is going to put a real onus on Scangarello to simplify his playbook for his new quarterback while using misdirection and finding ways to isolate his playmakers in space to give the kid a chance.
Ultimately, Allen fits what the Broncos are looking for at the position better than say Kevin Hogan, and he’s at a point in his career where he can withstand being thrown to the wolves.
The fear here is that even though he’s a nice fit schematically, Allen could be in trouble with Denver’s current personnel and will have to keep his head on a swivel playing in front of this offensive line.
While you watch Allen play, pay attention to how he’s moving his feet and how quickly he’s aware of pressure to get the ball out of his hands quickly.
Flacco got worse each week as the pressure, literally and figuratively, started to mount. Allen will have to embrace the opportunity and strike the perfect balance between methodically taking what a defense gives him and taking his shots.
His ability to throw with anticipation and squeeze throws into tight windows will serve him well, but if he doesn’t overcome his greatest weaknesses on tape, the Broncos might be forced to go back to Flacco or throw in one of the kids before too long.