It’s Week 5 of the 2020 NFL season, and we’re already in the position of “next man up” at quarterback for the Washington Football Team. Thankfully, it’s not the result of injury. Instead, it appears to be the result of a combination of generalized poor play by the previously anointed starter, Dwayne Haskins, as well as a failure by Haskins to learn from his mistakes and commit aggressively to correcting them. Whether he sees the field again in DC is something none of us can predict at this point. What we do know is, former Carolina QB, and back-up to Haskins, Kyle Allen will be thrust into the starting role against the Rams this week.
This piece isn’t intended as an evaluation of Allen’s talent, as much as it a summary of Allen’s path to the the NFL, and a repository of information prepared by others on Allen.
Coming out of high school in Arizona in 2014, Allen was an elite recruit, considered by some to be the number one quarterback prospect in the nation. He had 18 offers to play at Division 1 schools, including Alabama, Ohio State, and Notre Dame, eventually choosing Texas A&M as his landing spot.
At A&M, during his freshman year, Allen and Kenny Hill worked as part of a platoon to replace recently departed Heisman winner, Johnny Manziel. In 2015, Allen split time with future Heisman winner, Kyler Murray, helping lead the Aggies to an 8-5 finish. By the end of the 2015 school year, both Allen and Murray would have moved on from College Station, citing a “dysfunctional culture” left over from the Manziel era:
“I think the culture was a big part of it, and I think that stems from Johnny’s era there — the way that they let Johnny and [others] act there,” said Allen. “They [could] do that and still win games because they had Johnny … and five offensive linemen playing in the NFL right now.” “A lot of people were riding off that, ‘I can do whatever the hell I want and win on Saturday.’”
Allen transferred to Houston - considered by many a competitive step down - to join up-and-coming coach Tom Herman, who had recruited Allen initially to Ohio State as the Buckeyes OC. Murray transferred to Oklahoma, and both prospects were required to sit out the 2016 season per NCAA transfer rules.
In Houston, Allen began the 2017 season as the starter for the Cougars, but he would only start 3 games before being yanked for back-up Kyle Postma as a result of poor performance. In what has to be one of the more perplexing moves in recent draft history, Allen decided it would be a good idea to take his - at best - still clearly developing talents to the NFL after playing in a total of 4 games for Houston.
Thank you to everyone who has helped me get to this point! Excited to see what God has in store for me pic.twitter.com/upez57T0cK— Kyle Allen (@KyleAllen_10) January 11, 2018
Among the experts, this was viewed as a highly presumptuous move, and Allen ended up going undrafted. His pre-draft profiles acknowledged his arm talent and accuracy - when given time - but also pointed to his glaring weakness, which probably would have been best addressed by some additional time playing at the collegiate level:
Everything Allen needs to work on is between his ears.....it’s all mental. There are times when he tries to force things or lets his eyes move a defender into the throwing lane. Accuracy downfield was an issue at times. While he can handle some pressure, it seemed like there were long stretches where he had to deal with constant pressure. That’s not his fault, but it did lead to inaccurate throws, quick bailouts, and turnovers.
A Chance in the NFL
After the 2018 NFL draft, Ron Rivera’s Carolina Panthers picked Allen up as an undrafted free agent. That season, he bounced around on the Panthers’ practice squad, eventually being elevated late in the season to start in their final game, where he went 16 of 27 for 228 yards, picking up 2 passing and 1 rushing TDs against the Saints. He was credited with the victory in that game.
In 2019, Allen made the Panthers’ opening day roster and ended up starting in Week 3 as a result of Cam Newton’s foot injury. His performance caught people’s attention and inspired several - it turns out, premature - fawning assessments of Allen’s ability, like the one below.
After going 5-0 in his first five starts for the Panthers, without throwing an interception, the Kyle Allen hype-train had built up a serious head of steam.
Compared to the rest of the 2018 QB class, Allen is flourishing. While top prospects like Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, and even Josh Rosen continue to get the benefit of a doubt with their development, Kyle Allen is making an immediate impact in year two. Outside of Ravens signal-caller, Lamar Jackson, the Panthers quarterback may be the steal of the 2018 QB class
In Week 8, however, the hype-train’s boiler would blow catastrophically, as the Panthers lost 51-13 to the 49ers and would proceed to finish the season 1-8, losing to some pretty good teams (6 of 9 opponents would make the playoffs) and one terrible one, the Washington Football Team, a defeat that would ultimately help seal Ron Rivera’s firing in Carolina.
Once the Panthers started losing, it didn’t take long for things to go south for Allen in the press. After their third loss, to the Falcons, Allen was described as “overwhelmed.” Rivera was put on the defensive and issued statements like the following, that should sound eerily familiar to Washington Football Team fans:
“He is a young quarterback who’s going to make mistakes, but that’s why you put him out there because, again, it’s a learning curve,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “I’m not worried about it. He threw the ball in the directions he needed to, he just didn’t do the things he was supposed to do.”
The following week, the Panthers lost to the Saints, but, by most accounts, that wasn’t on Allen, who had a “fine performance,” going 23-of-36 for 256 yards, with three TDs and no interceptions. Against Washington, Allen was less impressive, throwing an INT and losing a fumble in 29-21 loss to the 3-13 squad.
When the Panthers lost to the Falcons in Week 14, it was described as Allen’s “worst game yet,” precipitating calls to give rookie QB Will Grier a chance to start. Allen had two INTs and a lost fumble in that game.
Allen didn’t play well in the following game, against the Seahawks, either, throwing 3 interceptions, and earning an “F” grade for his sloppy performance:
Kyle Allen’s first-half interception, throwing into double coverage and being picked off by Pro Bowl linebacker Bobby Wagner, is consistent with the pattern of costly mistakes Allen has made. He’s under a lot of duress behind an offensive line that doesn’t protect well, but his miscues aren’t balanced off enough by big plays lately. The second interception isn’t on Allen — it was tipped by up-the-middle rush — but the third one never should have been thrown with Allen about to be sacked. He made a bad situation worse.
In Week 17, Allen threw a pick 6 against the Saints, and New Orleans rolled Carolina 42-10. As quickly as it had begun, the Kyle Allen era in Carolina was over.
A New Start
Early in the Ron Rivera era in DC, Coach Ron traded away a 5th round pick to bring Allen up to help bolster his QB corps. Most assumed that former first round pick, Dwayne Haskins, had a virtually assured path to being the starter in DC, but not everyone, particularly in the midst of the disrupted off-season, was so sure. DeAngelo Hall was one of the doubters, and his early April interview on 106.7 now seems prescient:
“I think the jury’s still out on this kid,” Hall said of Haskins. ”I think by just not trusting him right now, it’s saying a whole lot. And I don’t think Dwayne Haskins is gonna respond. A lot of young kids don’t respond to that style of coaching. Ron Rivera’s an old-school mentality type of coach, he wants competition. These young guys they want things given to them.”
I would’ve loved to see Dwayne Haskins get the opportunity to be this starting quarterback in Washington, not have a talented guy like Kyle Allen behind him. (But instead) a more veteran seasoned guy behind him that (Haskins) knows the keys are his, and he fully go out there and make mistakes and just be young and energetic. With Kyle Allen breathing down your throat, you are not gonna be able to make many mistakes,” Hall said on NFL Network. “I love the kid, but I don’t know how (Haskins) wins the starting job, man.”
Allen didn’t get the starting job initially, but he has it now, for several of the reasons Hall mentioned. Let’s see what he does with it.
How many games do you think Kyle Allen wins this year?
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