Up until this point in this series, I have talked exclusively about Carson Wentz's mechanics and how they are fixable issues. While I am sure it is nice to hear me say that, let's look at the best example of a quarterback fixing their mechanics in the NFL.
Josh Allen was once considered an extremely raw, big armed prospect out of Wyoming. The inconsistencies in his game showed as a rookie, as he completed just 52.8% of his passes for 2,074 yards with 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 11 games played.
He continued to work on his craft to grow his game over the years and now, he is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. In 2020, he completed 69.2% of his passes for 4,544 yards with 37 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.
So in today's installment of this series, I will be taking a look at the mechanical improvement of Josh Allen and look at the similarities between him and Wentz.
Analyzing Allen's Mechanical Issues
To start this section, I would like to highly recommend an article from my colleague over at Cover 1. Erik Turner wrote a phenomenal piece regarding Allen's mechanical work titled Taming Josh Allen's Arm: How Mechanical Tweaks Have Buffalo's QB Primed For a Year 3 Leap prior to last season.
Turner mentioned quite a few mechanical concerns in Allen's game coming into the league, mostly referencing problems in the lower half of Allen's body.
"So, coming into the league in order for Allen to improve his accuracy or placement, he would need to improve his footwork because that’s the starting line for throwing." Turner mentions in the piece.
When looking at Allen's rookie year, plus some of his 2019 film, the footwork concerns are painfully obvious. He had a real issue with syncing up his body and aligning his body with his target.
Turner goes on to mention more subtle details in his piece (seriously read the article, it's outstanding).
I also spoke with Greg Panelli, who is the owner of the Panelli Passing Academy. He has worked with Allen since his days at Wyoming, and the two have become close friends over the years.
Panelli noted working on Allen's footwork and lower half when I spoke with him:
"One of the things I’ve always consistently looked at with Josh Allen is his feet. From the start, it has always been his feet. He obviously had the arm talent, and he’s had clean mechanics for the most part throwing the ball, so we mostly focused on his feet."
Allen in just three years has been able to calm his lower half, properly align his targets, and clean up his sequencing in order to become one of the best players in the league.
Working Through Allen's Mechanical Flaws
I spoke with Panelli in-depth about the process of taming Allen's talent and cleaning up some of the mechanical concerns.
Panelli gave me a detailed answer regarding the types of drills and work he did with Allen to get his footwork up to an NFL level:
Keeping his feet moving around. Doing drills that are having his feet move around and getting him uncomfortable. Starting without his feet underneath him, whether it’s as simple as ladder drills or cone drills, or having him move out of the pocket or do some sort of pocket movement.
It’s about trying to mirror a movement that is related to a game situation. It’s hard to replicate a movement that is directly in line with the same pressures in the game. Being able to actually mirror the footwork/movement part of it and reestablishing the base is big for us.
Let's look at these two throws, one from Allen's rookie year in 2018 and one from this past season. Two similar plays with the intermediate dig against zone defense.
In the first clip, Allen has happy feet and doesn't properly align himself with his target. He also brings his weight too far forward, resulting in the low pass.
In the second clip, against the Colts in the playoffs, Allen is a much different quarterback. He is calm in the pocket, maintains his balance in his stance, and delivers and accurate strike for the first down.
While I would love to give all the credit for this reformation to Panelli and other quarterback gurus, a lot of the credit has to go to Allen himself.
"It goes back to the old saying, 'you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink it.'" Panelli said. "We can give them all the tools we want. At the same time, they have to go out and do it in the game."
With Allen, his growth mindset and competitive nature has been a major catalyst in his drastic improvement. A 17% improvement in completion percentage is absurd, and a lot of that is due to Allen's mentality.
"One thing that sticks out is that the guy is so competitive. Whether it is playing golf or ping pong or cornhole, the guy is highly competitive." Panelli said. "(He's) probably one of the most competitive people I’ve ever met in my life."
Comparisons to Carson Wentz
It may be stretch to compare these two situations. Allen was a rookie in 2018, and his career has been an upward climb. Wentz peaked in 2017/2018 after rookie struggles but has seen his play tamper off in recent seasons.
However, I think a lot of the concerns are similar and completely fixable. If the Colts are truly focused on building Wentz from the ground up, studying how Allen was able to improve is a good benchmark.
"Overall, with most quarterbacks, it starts with their feet." Panelli said. "Especially guys who are highly talented with their arm strength."
Looking at some of the concerns in Wentz's game from the last two seasons, and it is easy to draw parallels to Allen's rookie struggles.
So what is the biggest takeaway I had from talking with Panelli and studying Allen's situation? A lot of this process comes down to Wentz and his mindset.
He is taking the right steps with the Colts, working with famed quarterback guru Adam Dedeaux. For him to really fix his issues though, he will have to work tirelessly on his craft. It is what Allen did to go from potential first round bust to MVP candidate.
"Everybody can look like an All-Pro throwing on air. When you get into the game, how are you able to translate that." Panelli said. "That is the difference between the elite guys and just a mediocre player."
Carson Wentz is obviously in a much different situation than Josh Allen was as a rookie. Wentz has had success in this league, and his main focus is getting back to where he was.
The main reason why I looked at Allen and his situation is to show that these concerns are fixable. One of the best quarterbacks in the NFL had major issues just two years ago. With proper training and a legendary work ethic, he was able to turn it around.
Wentz is already taking a lot of promising steps with the Colts but ultimately, it will come down to how he performs come game day. Learning the proper techniques and mechanics are one thing, but being able to translate them over to the game is something else.
Time will tell if Wentz is able to do this for the Colts. For Colts fans though, Allen's success story should serve as a positive reminder that quarterbacks can improve mechanically, and the results of these improvements can be monumental for the team.
See Below for More in This Series:
- The Mechanics of Carson Wentz: Setting the Hallway
- The Mechanics of Carson Wentz: Quarterback Sequencing
Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.