FOXBOROUGH — Josh Allen is a transformer.
Buffalo’s quarterback is part bulldozer, part cannon. He’s both a gunslinger in the pocket and a reckless wrecking ball when he’s out of it. The 6-foot-5-inch, 237-pounder is the NFL’s best dual-threat player as evidenced by his 3,183 passing yards and 561 rushing yards.
He’s responsible for 28 touchdowns, he’s absolutely a threat to put up 6 points on every snap, and he’ll be at Gillette Stadium Thursday night when his Bills play the Patriots.
“Allen’s the leading rusher, so that tells you all you need to know about what you have to defend every time he touches the ball,’’ Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Sunday. “It could be any number of things and he does them all well. Great player, certainly an MVP candidate. He does a lot for their team in a lot of ways.’’
Unlike a lot of mobile quarterbacks, Allen doesn’t rely on grace and misdirection jukes to gain yards with his legs. His style is more the monster truck — crush everything in his way.
Containing Allen presents a conundrum for defenses. For better or worse, referees treat quarterbacks differently, so it’s not always easy to reciprocate Allen’s physicality.
On the one hand, you have to be cognizant of avoiding roughing-the-passer calls when he’s behind the line of scrimmage. On the other hand, it’s important to deliver big hits once he crosses that line and morphs into a fullback.
Sometimes it can be a really fine line.
“Oh, well, you know, he still is a quarterback so we have to sure we have to follow and the keep the rules,’’ Patriots defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. said Sunday. “But he is a big guy who loves [to] lower his shoulder. So, we treat him when he’s tucking the ball to run, like a running back.’’
Ja’Whaun Bentley said defending Allen can sometimes be dictated by how the game is progressing.
“I would say you kind of got to go off of how the game’s being refereed in a way,’’ said the Patriots linebacker. “Obviously I don’t want to speak too much on the referees or anything like that, but if they are calling it tight then you’ve got to kind of go by the rules and things like that, but if they’re kind of letting you play a little bit, then you’ve got to kind of push the envelope, but it all depends on how the game’s being called.’’
Extending plays is Allen’s trademark. His ability to make something out of nothing is uncanny. Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo said it’s sometimes reminiscent of improvised “street ball.”
“I would say what that creates is kind of like two plays in a way,’’ said Bentley. “Like, you’ve got the first play and then the extended play that kind of happens as the play breaks down. So, find the guy in the area, kind of try to see what [Allen] sees, and just being able to make the play when the ball’s in the air is probably the main thing.’’
When Allen does take off, it’s still vital for defenders to maintain discipline and follow the game-plan rules, which can vary depending on the scheme.
“It would depend on what the coverage is that we’re in is. It depends on what the rush is. It would depend on what type of loose play you’re talking about here,’’ Belichick said. “So, it would fall into different categories depending on what the situation was. If he scrambled up the middle, if he scrambled outside, if it was man coverage, zone coverage, pressure defense. Where a player was playing, interior, on the edge, in the deep part of the filed, in the underneath coverage.
“There’s something for different guys that fall into those categories,” the coach added. “We don’t know who that’s going to be. Could be a linebacker, could be a safety, it could be an end, it could an interior player, it could be I don’t know. So, depending on where you are and what happens on the play, then yes, there’s absolutely rules to try to maintain the soundness of the defense.’’
Thin at running back
Damien Harris was the lone member of the 53-man roster not spotted during the rare Sunday Patriots practice. The fourth-year running back suffered a thigh injury in the second half of the loss to the Vikings in Minneapolis on Thanksgiving.
Harris, who was in clear pain following the game, would have to make a quick recovery in order to be available Thursday night.
If Harris can’t go, the Patriots are a little thin behind leading rusher Rhamondre Stevenson. Rookies Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris have four combined carries, while practice-squader J.J. Taylor has 10 carries for 9 yards.
Injured players on the mend
There was good news on the injury front as center David Andrews (thigh), offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn (foot), and receiver Jakobi Meyers (shoulder) were present for practice.
Andrews and Wynn missed the Vikings game and Meyers was shaken up making a diving 26-yard catch on the first play from scrimmage. Meyers made a brief trip to the locker room but did return in a limited capacity, finishing the game with three catches for 62 yards.
The first injury report of the week will be filed Monday.