As a backup in the NFL, waiting for the opportunity to be a starter can feel like a lifetime. And then suddenly, it can come in the blink of an eye and you have to be ready for it.
Such is the blessing and the curse for Brandon Allen.
As the Denver Broncos' new starting quarterback, Allen has been tasked with replacing 12th-year veteran Joe Flacco as the team prepares for its homestand vs. the Cleveland Browns. Allen is now technically in his third NFL season and will play his first regular-season snap this coming Sunday.
“It’s exciting. I’m very excited," Allen said on Tuesday. "Obviously, this is the opportunity that everybody wants, that everybody strives for, so I’m going out to do the best I can do.”
Allen was a 2016 sixth-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars and spent the last three seasons with the L.A. Rams, bouncing back and forth between the active roster and practice squad, before finding himself on the waiver wire at the final roster cut-downs at the end of August. After going against him in the preseason, and considering his familiarity with the Rams' West Coast offense, the Broncos put in a claim for him. Allen has spent the last eight weeks backing up Flacco.
Outside of his four years as a starter at Arkansas, not much is known about Allen, especially in Broncos Country. With their respective experience in the NFL being a chasm apart, cutting it down to its simplest distinction, fans want to know what Allen uniquely brings to the table compared to Flacco.
The Broncos' new starting quarterback was ready for that question and after genuflecting briefly to Flacco, Allen shared some insight. His summary of the difference between him and Flacco should give those fans harboring deep misgivings at least a sliver of hope.
“Obviously, Joe’s a great quarterback," Allen said. "He’s big, tall, can hang in the pocket, make throws. The subtle difference we have is I think I’m more mobile. I think I can escape the pocket and make plays outside the pocket. I think that’s kind of the main difference between the two of us.”
Considering the trouble the Broncos' offensive tackles have had in staving off edge pressure, Allen's modestly better mobility could be a huge plus for this offense. With the $51 million Ja'Wuan James playing a grand total of 32 snaps this year, the Broncos' tackle duo — Garett Bolles and Elijah Wilkinson — have at times been turnstiles.
At least, with a pocket statue like Flacco out there under center, that's how it appeared. Flacco's immobility made him a sitting duck. Any increase in athleticism or mobility is a plus in the quarterback column.
Brett Rypien is expected to be promoted from the practice squad in time to serve as Allen's backup for Week 9, even though Drew Lock is 100% healthy and fully recovered from his right thumb injury. The undrafted rookie QB will be one play away from taking the field for the Broncos in a regular season contest.
The thought is enough to give fans a bad case of heartburn, or maybe even an ulcer. However, Allen's advice is to worry about something else.
“Brett’s a very smart guy," Allen said. "I wouldn’t worry too much about Brett. His preparation is top-notch. Although he is young, he’s very smart. He’s obviously been here in the offseason, been in the offense, so I think he’ll be ready to go at a moment’s notice as well.”
Unless Allen comes out of the gates and really puts it to the Browns on Sunday, a la the Kyle Allen story in Carolina, the hue and cry for Lock in the fanbase will increasingly become a cacophony. It's fair to wonder how much that'll affect a brand-new starter like Brandon Allen.
“That’s not something I can worry about," Allen said. "I’m focused on Cleveland this week, so however that works out, it’ll work itself out.”
If the Broncos have a 'plan' for Lock (that's a big if), it doesn't sound like it'll even begin to be hatched until the final quarter of the season. It's inexplicable but such has been many of the decisions of this front-office since the 'World of Suck' era began post-Super Bowl 50.
Meanwhile, opportunity knocks for Allen and the young signal-caller believes he's equal to it. Allen is primed. OC Rich Scangarello won't have to limit his calls or cut the playbook in half in order to accommodate his new starting triggerman.
“No, I think the playbook’s wide open," Allen said. "Like I said, I come from a very similar offense, so I think the thing I had to learn when I first got here was pretty much just terminology. I knew the routes. I knew the reads and all that, so I think the playbook should be pretty wide open.”