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Raiders-Bills: What’s the difference between good and bad Josh Allen?

5 questions with Buffalo Rumblings

Buffalo Bills v Las Vegas Raiders
Josh Allen vs Raiders 2020
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Ahead of the Las Vegas Raiders and Buffalo Bills Week 2 matchup, Matt Byham of Buffalo Rumblings was kind enough to answer a few questions about the Bills to preview the game for Raider Nation.

1) Josh Allen is undoubtedly one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but he has thrown 20 interceptions in his last 19 games (including playoffs), including three on Monday night. So, is there a particular type of defense or coverage that he struggles with? In a sense, what makes the difference between good Josh and bad Josh?

Where to start? We’ve talked ad nauseam about Josh Allen’s perceived struggles this week. Really since he injured his UCL against those Jets in Week 9 last season. Then it was about his accuracy and the ability to adeptly throw the short passes following the injury. Now, it’s about his decision-making and more.

It appears at this point that teams like to present Allen with Cover-2 looks, forcing him into a dink-and-dunk game. On the surface, that might seem unwise given the wealth of between-the-stick pass-catching talent on the team. But then you recall that Allen to Diggs is one of the most prolific connections in the NFL, and that Allen often loves throwing deep to Gabe Davis.

It isn’t that Diggs can’t or won’t play underneath — he does so often. Even Davis has been observed to operate in that realm. It’s that Allen doesn’t want to give in, and believes his arm and his guy will always win. Josh Allen’s constantly looking for an eviscerating play, but sometimes such plays end up as pigskin Seppuku for him.

Good Josh is an Alien species; a complicated specimen, of which few humans could navigate in his place. Within that realm, Allen is one with the force and team, able to see all levels of the defense and absent of unwise decisions. The laws of gravity bend for his Earthly form, while common sense occupies within an elevated barometer. Dude is locked in and no one’s going to stop him.

Bad Josh, though I’m not sure I’d ever label anything he does on the football as such — he’s what some are compelled to call Sugar-High Josh. He’s impatient, clearly flustered, and unwilling to settle for less. It’s as though every play, each down is the last in the most meaningful game he’ll ever compete. And this form populates him with a turnover-infested virus. He’s still pretty awesome in this form, just not as often.

2) The Bills made an interesting first-round pick by drafting tight end Dalton Kincaid while still having Dawson Knox in the lineup. How have those two worked together/complemented each other so far? Building on that, do you think having two good pass-catching tight ends will eat into Stefon Diggs’ targets?

Buffalo Bills v New York Jets
Dalton Kincaid
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

I fully understand calling the selection of Dalton Kincaid an “interesting first-round pick.” I simply prefer to note it as awesome.

Many believed general manager Brandon Beane and the Bills were looking to add a receiver in the 2023 NFL Draft — someone to help adequately fill the slot receiver role, or provide additional outside ability. Then ahead of Buffalo’s scheduled pick, four receivers came off the board. Suddenly the Bills make the trade to move ahead of the Dallas Cowboys, a team oft-paired with Kincaid by mock drafts and pundits.

That led many to believe that Buffalo’s GM didn’t have first-round grades on the remaining receivers. Kincaid isn’t a typical tight end. While the comparisons to Travis Kelce are far too soon, Dalton Kincaid isn’t a typical NFL tight end. I think perhaps that’s what people mean when using the comparison. He can line up anywhere as a pass catcher, has an almost unparalleled ability to catch the football, and runs routes with speed more like a receiver than a lumbering tight end. He’s a matchup nightmare unless that matchup asks him to stay in-line and block. That’s not his game, nor should it be.

As for Diggs’ target share? I doubt it. At least not long term. There may be games where Kincaid is the one seeing the larger share (as well Knox, though he is more like a very athletic traditional tight end), while Diggs finds less opportunity. I don’t think that will bother Diggs so long as the team wins. That’s all Diggs wants, and when the team struggles he wants to help. It might mean fewer targets for other receivers if things go according to plan. We’ve also yet to see how it could impact the already small amount of screen plays the offense runs.

3) I feel like the Bills’ rushing attack has been considered a weakness for a few years now, but they have a good stable of backs in James Cook, Damien Harris and former Raider Latavius Murray. Do you think that changes this year?

If you subtract Josh Allen’s rushing production, the team’s running game could definitely be considered a weakness. All offseason, those who cover the Bills lauded the potential contributions of Cook, Harris, and Murray. I believe they added Harris and Murray to give the room a more physical attack, but I’m not ready to say the unit overall sees added opportunity. It’s just not the type of team that Buffalo’s been — that is a run-heavy offense. They have been extremely efficient when running the ball but, again, you have to consider Allen’s contributions.

Maybe it does change this season, however. They used Cook early against the Jets, then brought in Murray late, conceivably looking to bring a more physical element to their attacking the line of scrimmage. James Cook has a ton of potential, but until I see their reliance on him, I’m unwilling to say he’s a (my words) featured contributor.

4) To me, Buffalo’s defensive line is one of the better and deeper units in the NFL. Can you shed some light on maybe two or three players that Raider Nation should know about heading into Sunday?

Buffalo Bills v New York Jets
Greg Rousseau
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Bills have considerable depth on the defensive line, from those who play end as edge rushers to the interior guys.

  • Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones has been a fantastic addition to the roster. He arrived in Orchard Park, NY via free agency last season, and has been a handful for offensive lines ever since. When healthy, he’s one of Buffalo’s best interior linemen, able to shed double teams and limit the effectiveness of opposing running attacks.
  • Edge rusher Greg Rousseau is a monster, standing 6’6” and weighing 267 pounds. He’s starting to come into his own, having been a late first-round pick of the Bills in 2021. Rousseau’s benefited from having edge rusher Von Miller around, and not just as a means to absorb double teams. The knowledge he’s imparted on Rousseau has paid dividends and Rousseau appears more dominant against offensive linemen and more explosive with a larger cache of moves.
  • Defensive end Shaq Lawson is now a long-tenured vet, originally drafted by the Bills during the tenure of head coach Rex Ryan. He left for the Arizona Cardinals in free agency, only to underwhelm there before spending short stints between the Miami Dolphins and Jets. Now in his second stint and having signed several one-year contracts with the club, Lawson brings a solid, steady presence to the defense. He’s adept as a run defender, but don’t underestimate his ability as a pass rusher. He bleeds Bills colors and has played his best ball under the directions of both former defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier and head coach Sean McDermott (who also now calls the defense).

5) One of the big one-on-one matchups to watch in this game is going to be Davante Adams versus Tre’Davious White. How do you see that playing out? And, based on what you think about that battle, would you take the over or under on the Raiders’ point total at 18.5 set by DraftKings Sportsbook?

Well, I believe it depends a lot on the health of both. Tre’Davious White isn’t injured, but it took him a year (Thanksgiving 2021-Thanksgiving 2022) to return from his ACL injury. When he did return, many believed he wasn’t fully himself. He did play fantastic ball in the playoffs, but it’s fair to wonder if White may have lost some explosion due to the injury and now his age.

Hearing about Davante Adams’ foot injury makes me question if he’ll be as explosive this Sunday. Not knowing what it is, perhaps that favors White a bit more if Adams can’t cut and run routes with his typical brand of deadly precision.

It’s going to be a fun matchup to watch. I don’t know that you’ll see White on Adams exclusively, however. That could mean occasionally second-year cornerback Christian Benford (who’s been a revelation as a sixth-round pick outplaying both his first-round draft mate Kaiir Elam and veteran Dane Jackson) covers him, or even that White and/or Benford are given help from nickel corner Taron Johnson and safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer.

As for the Raiders’ over/under point total: I know it was against Zach Wilson, but the Jets still have Breece Hall, Garrett Wilson, and Dalvin Cook. And New York only scored one touchdown at home. Benford made an incredible play to catch and stop Hall who was en route to a 96-yard touchdown. Instead, he stopped him 13 yards short of the end zone and saved the Bills four points. Garrett Wilson made a bonkers touchdown catch while on the ground, which I’m sure everyone’s seen. That was with White covering him. I’m not sure what else White could have done unless it was jumping the route for a pick.

But back to the Raiders. I’m inclined to believe they’ll struggle to put touchdowns on the board, especially against what Bills Mafia is hoping to be a very focused and motivated Buffalo Bills team. I don’t think they keep the Raiders out of the end zone, but it’s possible they force Las Vegas to settle for more field goals than is preferred. If Garoppolo can get the ball out quickly and keep the defense honest against both the run and pass, and I do expect running back Josh Jacobs to have a day. Do all that well, and they could exceed the 18.5-point total. I’m just not sure I’d bet it this week.