After Sunday’s Bills vs. Jaguars showdown, which featured Josh Allen lining up against Josh Allen, it’s fair to wonder whether Josh Allen possesses more relative talent than Josh Allen. Wait — what? Yes, there are two professional football players named Josh Allen in the NFL: one Josh Allen is the quarterback of the Buffalo Bills, and the other Josh Allen is a defensive end for the Jacksonville Jaguars. After Sunday’s historic game which saw Jacksonville’s Josh Allen record an interception, a sack, a fumble recovery and eight tackles against the Josh Allen-led Bills, our writers debate which Josh Allen should be considered the superior Josh Allen in the NFL.
Pick: Josh Allen, Bills QB
Despite Sunday’s underwhelming performance, Josh Allen should still be considered the better Josh Allen in professional football. Let me be more clear: Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen is, and always will be the best Josh Allen to suit up in the NFL.
To start, it’s fair to acknowledge that the NFL is an offense-driven league. Defensive players rarely get the credit or the media coverage that they deserve, with most attention focused on offensive stars. So right away, Buffalo’s Allen may have an advantage in crowning the best Josh Allen simply because he is the game manager for one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL. But to his credit, Allen has done more than enough to earn the attention of the media, not only because of him playing the position of quarterback, but because of his explosive game performances and undeniable talent.
There is a reason why the Bills selected Allen with the seventh overall selection of the 2018 NFL Draft. Despite what was at the time purely raw talent, Allen separated himself from other quarterbacks in the 2018 draft due to a combination of elite arm strength and running ability. Straight out of college, Allen could throw 60-yard passes or amass 20-yard gains on the ground, making him a nightmare for opposing defenses. The only thing that made Allen exposable during rookie and sophomore seasons was his lackluster accuracy and his questionable decision-making, two growing pains that Allen eventually overcame.
Despite his early-career struggles, Allen was no push-over. In his rookie season, Allen set a number of Bills franchise records as a rookie quarterback, including the most rushing yards by a Bills quarterback with 631. He finished second in rushing yards among all quarterbacks that season despite playing in only 12 of 16 games, with only Lamar Jackson, who attempted 58 more rushing attempts than Allen, recording more rushing yards among quarterbacks with 695. Allen also set the Bills franchise records for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game with 135, the longest passing touchdown by a rookie quarterback with a 75-yard score, and the most total touchdowns by a rookie quarterback. Immediately, the stage was set for Allen to establish himself as an elite NFL playmaker as long as he could overcome his early-career struggles.
In 2020, Allen took the jump into elite territory. He finished his campaign by recording 4,544 passing yards (No. 5 in the NFL among quarterbacks), 37 passing touchdowns (No. 5), eight rushing touchdowns (tied for No. 3 among quarterbacks), and finished the season with the third-highest quarterback rating in the NFL. After his early-career accuracy and decision-making struggles, Allen finished No. 4 in the NFL in completion percentage and was in the top 12 in terms of interceptions thrown, indicating that his decision-making was better than nearly one-third of all other starting quarterbacks. At the season’s end, Allen finished second in the voting poll for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award.
From the end of his rookie season in 2018 through Week Nine of this year, Allen has led the Bills to a 28-12 record, a winning percentage of .700. Over that time, Allen has led the Bills to the playoffs twice over three full seasons, including an appearance in the 2020 AFC Championship Game as the AFC’s second seed against the number one seeded Kansas City Chiefs. Despite losing the game, Allen compiled 375 total yards of offense, better than Chiefs quarterback and perennial All-Pro Patrick Mahomes.
Sure, the Bills entered Sunday’s contest as heavy favorites against the lowly Jaguars, but despite their loss and the heroics of the Jaguars’ Josh Allen, the Josh Allen-led Bills are still 5-3, good enough for first in the AFC East and fourth in the entire AFC. They are well in position to make another push at the playoffs again this season, and Allen will again be in the running for the NFL’s MVP Award.
After overcoming adversity amidst his early-career struggle, Allen has established himself as the face of an evolving Bills franchise that has long waited for the dominance that Allen possesses. He will be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL for years to come, but perhaps more importantly, he will be the best Josh Allen in a world full of Josh Allens.
Pick: Josh Allen, Jaguars defensive end/linebacker
The Buffalo Bills have always been overrated, with their quarterback included, and Josh Allen of the Jaguars did an excellent job pointing that out on multiple occasions this past Sunday. Josh Allen sacked Josh Allen, intercepted Josh Allen’s throw, and then recovered Josh Allen’s fumble.
The Jaguars are led by Trevor Lawrence, who was the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but I would argue that the defense is generally stronger than the offense, with Josh Allen spearheading efforts on the opposite side of the ball. In his rookie season, coming off as the seventh overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, he immediately became a leader on defense, and that remains true in the 2021 season. You know who else was the seventh pick? Josh Allen in 2018. Now, he’s down to only 7.0 yards per attempt this year when he was throwing for 7.9 last year. He’s really not playing his best this year, ranked at seventh among all quarterbacks in the NFL.
Meanwhile, Josh Allen of Jacksonville is sitting at fourth in the league for solo tackles with 25 so far this season. I know it’s hard to compare stats for an offensive player against a defensive player, but it all goes down to the numbers in each of their respective goals — Josh Allen the quarterback wants to throw the ball and Josh Allen the defensive end and linebacker wants to tackle the offense and stop the ball.
Also, let’s remember that Josh Allen is accomplishing what he is while still coming off of a knee injury. He missed the last eight games in the 2020 season, but still managed to pull off a pass rushing grade of 70.2. He finished with a total of 13 tackles last year, and he had eight this past Sunday alone, all of which were solo.
Regardless of the fact that the Jaguars are 2-6 right now, do not underestimate Josh Allen’s ability to carry the team defensively. Sure, Jacksonville lost 31-7 to the Seattle Seahawks on the Sunday before this past weekend’s game, but Josh Allen had six tackles that game, five of which were solo. Plus, he had two sacks. If Josh Allen was his own team, and he often is on the defense, he would have won that game.
The NFL is incredibly oversaturated with offensive talent, so it’s even more telling to Josh Allen’s skills that he is performing as well as he is while being an all-around defensive player. He is truly a playmaker within the Jaguars’ organization, and a common name among the top players on defense throughout the league — and this has been the case since he started.
Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills cannot say the same.
Allen struggles when throwing in the red zone, which cost the Bills the game against the Tennessee Titans earlier this season in Week Six when they lost 34-31. Ahead of that game, Josh Allen’s offense was ranked No. 24 in the league for converting red-zone opportunities into touchdowns. A quarterback calling plays for a team that’s ranked 24 out of 32 teams isn’t what I would call a great quarterback.
Are we going to pretend that Josh Allen wasn’t the worst quarterback in the NFL last season at completing passes traveling more than 20 yards in the air? I’m certainly not.
Also, accuracy is a thing Josh Allen doesn’t totally have. He has gotten better — I will give him that — but throughout this whole time and even now, he lacks the ability to read the defense in order to properly find a target and make a connection.
If anything, it sounds like the opposing defense on teams across the league is ultimately stronger, hence why Josh Allen led the Jaguars to victory over Josh Allen of the Bills.
This all circles back to Sunday’s performance, because if Josh Allen had decent accuracy, ball control and some sort of defensive analysis, he wouldn’t still be complaining about his performance. He’s putting the emphasis on him, quite immaturely, and away from the phenomenal defensive efforts by Josh Allen.