AFC East Quarterbacks – Josh Allen vs. Sam Darnold

Dylan Price with a closer look at Josh Allen vs. Sam Darnold heading into the third year of the NFL careers

*Que Bruce Buffer*, “LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!”

In one corner, the third pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the kid from Cali, Sam Darnold. In the blue corner, the seventh selection in the 2018 draft, the other Cali kid, Josh Allen.

Breaking Down The Debate

Okay, so it’s not even close to that style of a debate, because when analyzing the Darnold v Allen debate, there are much more similarities than there are differences. For instance, Allen and Darnold were both born in California, drafted by New York teams (technically),  drafted in the top 10 of the 2018 draft, they even share a trainer. The two are good friends and although on the field they’ve become rivals, at least to this point, their friendship has remained strong. When COVID peaked originally the two were at beach houses together training under Jordan Palmer. Although come this fall, the debate will turn from who the most talented quarterback in the 2018 class is, to Allen v Darnold.

To this point, Allen and Darnold’s career trajectories have been anything but similar. Allen has had continuity in coaching early with Sean McDermott. He also has had a talented team around him and a front office constantly looking to provide him assets. Prior to year two, the Bills front office upgraded their offensive line immensely and gave Allen the opportunity to haver more time in the pocket. Allen capitalized by throwing for 3,089 yards in 16 games with 20 TDs and 9 INTs. Rushing the ball Allen added 510 yards and 9 scores. Allen was able to control the game with more efficiency and that played a big role in the team going 10-6 and reaching the playoffs.

On the other side of things, Sam Darnold has had much less luck. Todd Bowles was ousted after a dismal tenure. Then the Jets underwent an entire coaching staff and front office overhaul leaving no continuity for Darnold heading to year two. Then, Darnold was diagnosed with mono and the Jets ended up with an awful start to his sophomore campaign. Despite missing three games, Darnold returned and eventually found a rhythm with Gase finishing the season with 3,024 yards, 19 TDs and 13 INTs. He also rushed for 62 yards and 2 scores. Despite facing very different scenarios, Darnold was still able to emulate the success Allen had in a sense.

Why This Season Is Crucial To Debate

For the first time since they came out of college, you can make the case Allen and Darnold are on a more even playing field. The Bills still hold an advantage in terms of coaching and weaponry, but the Jets are getting there. The offensive line was overhauled, Darnold will have new weapons at his disposal (for worse or better), and most importantly, a full season under his belt with Gase. When that offense was clicking last year, it was on fire. If the Jets can catch some of that lightning in a bottle, then Darnold could have a lot of success.

As for Allen, Stefon Diggs changes everything. Darnold has no true number one wideout. Allen does now. Diggs adds speed, precision and leadership to the Bills receiving room and will be a dangerous combo with Allen’s deep ball. Quite frankly, that combo should be fun to watch. Allen will be trusted to take a big jump though. With that new weaponry comes increased expectations. If Allen can take advantage of his situation, he could jump way ahead of Darnold.

In the end, the debate will likely last as long as the two are in the league. Of the 4 main QBs from the 2018 class, Lamar is an MVP, and on the highest level of the 4 currently. Lamar’s debate centers around continuing his success and whether or not there is sustainability or if defenses figure him out and shut him down. Baker has a debate centered around coming back. He was the most polarizing of the 4 year one, but had a down year last year. Not only is he tasked with coming back, but he has to do it in the midst of lofty expectations surrounding the team. As for Allen and Darnold, they have to prove they are franchise quarterbacks and they have to do it now. They’re on similar platforms for now, but both are tasked with hopes of a jump in their 3rd year, and for each of them the focus should be on that, not outdoing the other.