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What to expect from Brandon Allen in the rest of his starting stint

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Many starting quarterbacks play well in their first start, but few continue to play at that same level for long.

Cleveland Browns v Denver Broncos Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Brandon Allen posted a passer rating of 125.6 in his first NFL start. This was the best passer rating for a Denver Broncos starting quarterback since Trevor Siemian posted the exact same passer rating in his third career start at Cincinnati in 2016. His passer rating in his first start was the 12th best posted by a quarterback making his first career start this century.

Rk Player Age Date Tm Opp Result G# Week Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Sk Yds
1 Marcus Mariota 21.318 9/13/2015 TEN @ TAM W 42-14 1 1 13 15 86.7 209 4 0 158.3 2 24
2 Nick Mullens 23.225 11/1/2018 SFO OAK W 34-3 9 9 16 22 72.7 262 3 0 151.9 0 0
3 Robert Griffin 22.21 9/9/2012 WAS @ NOR W 40-32 1 1 19 26 73.1 320 2 0 139.9 2 14
4 Matt Ryan 23.113 9/7/2008 ATL DET W 34-21 1 1 9 13 69.2 161 1 0 137.0 1 5
5 Drew Brees 23.236 9/8/2002 SDG @ CIN W 34-6 1 1 15 19 79.0 160 2 0 136.8 1 0
6 Charlie Frye 24.098 12/4/2005 CLE JAX L 14-20 12 13 13 20 65.0 226 2 0 136.7 5 21
7 Marc Bulger 25.191 10/13/2002 STL OAK W 28-13 6 6 14 21 66.7 186 3 0 134.1 3 22
8 Philip Rivers 24.277 9/11/2006 SDG @ OAK W 27-0 1 1 8 11 72.7 108 1 0 133.9 0 0
9 Colin Kaepernick 25.016 11/19/2012 SFO CHI W 32-7 10 11 16 23 69.6 243 2 0 133.1 1 7
10 Todd Bouman 29.13 12/9/2001 MIN TEN W 42-24 12 13 21 31 67.7 348 4 1 131.5 0 0
11 Brock Osweiler 25 11/22/2015 DEN @ CHI W 17-15 10 11 20 27 74.1 250 2 0 127.1 5 31
12 Brandon Allen 27.059 11/3/2019 DEN CLE W 24-19 9 9 12 20 60.0 193 2 0 125.6 3 18
13 Sam Darnold 21.097 9/10/2018 NYJ @ DET W 48-17 1 1 16 21 76.2 198 2 1 116.8 2 18
14 A.J. McCarron 25.098 12/20/2015 CIN @ SFO W 24-14 14 15 15 21 71.4 192 1 0 115.6 4 18
15 Aaron Rodgers 24.281 9/8/2008 GNB MIN W 24-19 1 1 18 22 81.8 178 1 0 115.5 0 0
16 Daniel Jones 22.118 9/22/2019 NYG @ TAM W 32-31 3 3 23 36 63.9 336 2 0 112.7 5 24
17 Kyle Allen 22.297 12/30/2018 CAR @ NOR W 33-14 16 17 16 27 59.3 228 2 0 111.3 0 0
18 Tim Rattay 26.232 11/2/2003 SFO STL W 30-10 9 9 19 29 65.5 236 3 1 110.7 1 12
19 Case Keenum 25.245 10/20/2013 HOU @ KAN L 16-17 7 7 15 25 60.0 271 1 0 110.6 5 50
20 Cam Newton 22.123 9/11/2011 CAR @ ARI L 21-28 1 1 24 37 64.9 422 2 1 110.4 4 19

While it’s great that Brandon’s first start shows up on that list, I would not read too much into it since there are guys on that list who went on to perform terribly in their next few games - Todd Bouman, Charlie Frye, Marc Bulger, Tim Rattay and Brock Osweiler. Of course there are also guys who continued to play well and their second and third starts - Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Robert Griffin and Kyle Allen. Patrick Mahomes had the best three first starts in NFL history.

Since I expect Brandon to only start one or two more games for us before Drew Lock takes over, let’s look at how quarterbacks this century have performed in their first three starts, and then, with an eye to the future if Brandon Allen does the unlikely and continues to tear it up, their next three starts. With seven games remaining, it is possible that Brandon starts the remainder of the games for Denver this year. It’s not likely, but it is still possible.

This study covered the 80 NFL QB’s who have made their first six starts this decade. I was surprised that there were only 80.

Rank Quarterback Passer Rating Starts 1-3 Passer Rating Starts 4-6 Change from 1-3 to 4-6
1 Patrick Mahomes 130.1 89.2 -40.9
2 Kyle Allen 116.1 70.5 -45.6
3 Troy Smith 115.2 76.9 -38.3
4 Matt Flynn 111.9 93.5 -18.4
5 Marcus Mariota 110.3 93.3 -17.0
6 Mason Rudolph 105.1 84.4 -20.7
7 Case Keenum 105.1 64.2 -40.9
8 Jimmy Garoppolo 104.9 101.0 -3.9
9 Carson Wentz 103.8 79.1 -24.7
10 Robert Griffin 103.5 96.8 -6.7
11 Tyrod Taylor 100.8 109.8 9.0
12 Austin Davis 100.6 85.0 -15.6
13 Gardner Minshew 100.6 82.7 -17.9
14 Colin Kaepernick 100.1 94.8 -5.3
15 Deshaun Watson 99.6 112.4 12.8
16 Curtis Painter 96.7 45.8 -50.9
17 Trevor Siemian 95.9 87.2 -8.7
18 Chase Daniel 95.5 81.6 -13.9
19 Dak Prescott 93.3 116.5 23.2
20 Zach Mettenberger 92.7 80.0 -12.7
21 Jake Locker 91.9 72.4 -19.5
22 Kirk Cousins 90.6 60.8 -29.8
23 Nick Mullens 89.6 101.4 11.8
24 Brock Osweiler 89.2 88.6 -0.6
25 Cody Kessler 87.9 104.5 16.6
26 Matt McGloin 87.7 67.0 -20.7
27 EJ Manuel 86.5 62.3 -24.2
28 Russell Wilson 86.2 85.1 -1.1
29 Daniel Jones 85.5 83.3 -2.2
30 Cam Newton 85.1 71.1 -14.0
31 Thaddeus Lewis 84.6 78.0 -6.6
32 Colt McCoy 83.5 100.7 17.2
33 Matt Barkley 83.0 66.0 -17.0
34 Andy Dalton 82.1 86.3 4.2
35 Josh Rosen 80.9 61.9 -19.0
36 Brian Hoyer 80.6 86.0 5.4
37 Brett Hundley 79.9 72.9 -7.0
38 Mitchell Trubisky 79.2 77.7 -1.5
39 Kyler Murray 79.0 99.2 20.2
40 Jameis Winston 77.9 93.3 15.4
41 Tim Tebow 77.8 77.6 -0.2
42 Mike Glennon 77.1 88.1 11.0
43 T.J. Yates 77.0 96.8 19.8
44 Jeff Driskel 75.8 88.1 12.3
45 Blake Bortles 75.6 65.3 -10.3
46 Andrew Luck 75.4 69.4 -6.0
47 Derek Carr 74.9 88.3 13.4
48 Tom Savage 74.0 71.7 -2.3
49 Terrelle Pryor 72.7 92.2 19.5
50 Drew Stanton 72.3 86.4 14.1
51 Sam Darnold 72.0 96.3 24.3
52 Jacoby Brissett 71.6 87.8 16.2
53 Landry Jones 71.5 104.7 33.2
54 Jared Goff 70.0 53.0 -17.0
55 Christian Ponder 69.7 83.8 14.1
56 Johnny Manziel 69.6 87.3 17.7
57 Nick Foles 69.5 85.0 15.5
58 Bryce Petty 69.0 41.2 -27.8
59 Blaine Gabbert 68.8 50.3 -18.5
60 Sam Bradford 68.1 70.5 2.4
61 Baker Mayfield 67.9 93.3 25.4
62 Lamar Jackson 67.0 97.6 30.6
63 Paxton Lynch 66.5 87.3 20.8
64 Josh Allen 65.2 67.7 2.5
65 Geno Smith 65.0 85.8 20.8
66 Teddy Bridgewater 64.0 82.7 18.7
67 Scott Tolzien 63.5 33.8 -29.7
68 Ryan Mallett 63.0 60.6 -2.4
69 John Skelton 62.0 78.3 16.3
70 Brandon Weeden 60.7 75.4 14.7
71 C.J. Beathard 59.9 84.9 25.0
72 Ryan Tannehill 58.3 95.8 37.5
73 Charlie Whitehurst 57.4 81.3 23.9
74 Jimmy Clausen 56.6 64.1 7.5
75 Kevin Kolb 56.2 91.2 35.0
76 Tyler Palko 55.3 66.5 11.2
77 DeShone Kizer 53.2 39.6 -13.6
78 Caleb Hanie 48.6 33.3 -15.3
79 Ryan Lindley 41.7 57.1 15.4
80 Nathan Peterman 16.8 45.3 28.5

So there are some names of note for Bronco Country on this list - Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch, Tim Tebow, Trevor Siemian and Case Keenum. Two other names that you should note are sitting at #2 and #71, Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard. Why? Nick and C.J. both were mentored by our current offensive coordinator Nick Scangarello, who was their QB coach in SF - more on that later.

Before we move to far into the analysis I also want to make note that the average passer rating for starts 1-3 was 79.7 and for starts 4-6 it was 79.6. For reference the average passer rating in the league in 2018 was 92.9, but that number has been creeping up every year.

Looking at the table above we can see that some QB’s ball out in their first three games and then crash back down to earth (Curtis Painter, Kyle Allen, Case Keenum and Kirk Cousins) while others stink it up before finding their footing in games four through six (Ryan Tannehill, Landry Jones, Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield).

If you focus on the bottom ten, the only QB who became a long-term starter was Tannehill, and he lost his starting gig during the off-season (and his since gotten it back with a new team). We should note that Tannehill has the largest improvement in performance from games 1-3 to games 4-6. Lamar Jackson was close. The next lowest group (60-70) has Sam Bradford (who was a long-term starter) and four guys who may still turn into long-term starters: Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen and Teddy Bridgewater.

If you want to split this into three groups, we have the QB’s who played well, played OK and played poorly in their first three starts, but we could split each of those groups into three more groups: those who improved, those who stayed the same and those who regressed. On the extremes we have a QB like Patrick Mahomes who played so well in his first three starts that even a large regression only brought him back to about the league average (regression to the mean) and then we have a player who played so poorly, Nathan Peterman, that even with a large improvement he was so bad that he should have never started another NFL game at QB. Somewhere in between we have the guys who showed essentially what they could be in their first three starts and never really changed from that for better or worse. Osweiler and Tebow fall into that category.

Why should we care?

So here is why this is pertinent for Bronco Country right now - Brandon Allen is set to make his second and maybe his third NFL start for us. He also had a really good first game, that was admittedly aided by two really good individual performances from his receivers, Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant. Here’s where we will look more closely at Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard specifically at how they performed in their second and third NFL starts. This will be done not only because our OC was their QB coach, but also because those two QB’s were running ostensibly the same offense that Denver is running year.

To begin let’s compare the first NFL start for all three QBs

Stats from first start Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Sk Yds Y/A AY/A Rush Yds Y/A TD
Brandon Allen 12 20 60.0 193 2 0 125.6 3 18 9.7 11.7 5 13 2.6 0
C.J. Beathard 22 38 57.9 235 0 0 76.1 5 48 6.2 6.2 5 30 6.0 1
Nick Mullens 16 22 72.7 262 3 0 151.9 0 0 11.9 14.6 4 -3 -0.8 0

Since stats are not compiled in a vacuum, we must also look at the defenses which all three QBs faced. From a points per game allowed standpoint, the Browns currently rank 20th. So Brandon had a relatively easy first game at home vs a “weak” defense. Similarly, Nick Mullens faced the Raiders, who ranked 32nd that season, in San Francisco and Beathard faced a Dallas team that finished the season 13th. Beathard also made his first start at home.

Mullens and Allen both lead their teams to victory, while Beathard’s 49ers got spanked 40-10 and C.J. did not lead his team to a TD until it was 40-3 in the 4th quarter, so much of his stat output was in “garbage time.”

Mullens and Allen had it much easier than Beathard in their first career starts. Mullens actually had a cake-walk. That Raider defense last season was terrible. They were unable to stop the pass (29th in passer rating against, 32nd in pressuring opposing QBs, 32nd in TD passes allowed, 32nd in sacks) or the run (20th in YPC allowed). The 2018 Raiders had fewer sacks than six individual players. If you had to hand-pick a team to make your first NFL start against, the 2018 Oakland Raiders is probably who you would choose. In fact, you have to go back to the 2009 Jaguars to find a team as bad at pressuring the QB. The Jags finished the season with 14 sacks; the 2018 Raiders had 13.

So from the first table we can see that Mullens really regressed in his second and third games, but that was to be expected when he was facing real NFL defenses. After throwing for three TDs with no interceptions in first start, he threw two TDs with four INTs total in his second and third. I should note that Mullens made his first start in game 9, just like Allen did for us. The 49ers lost in Mullens’ second and third starts. Hopefully the Broncos do not follow suit.

Mullens stats from his first three starts:

Opp Result Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Sk Yds
OAK W 34-3 16 22 72.73 262 3 0 151.9 0 0
NYG L 23-27 27 39 69.23 250 1 2 73.7 0 0
@TAM L 9-27 18 32 56.25 221 1 2 62.1 4 27

I did not include his rushing stats since his runs were generally not significant (8 carries for -3 yards including kneel-downs).

C.J. Beathard had a much more difficult first three starts. After facing that Dallas defense, he faced the Eagles defense which finished the season 4th in points allowed and the Cardinals defense that finished the season 19th. In terms of passer rating allowed, that Cowboy defense was 26th (actually his easiest game) while that Eagles’ defense was 9th and that Cardinals’ defense was 14th.

DAL L 10-40 22 38 57.89 235 0 0 76.1 5 48
@PHI L 10-33 17 36 47.22 167 1 2 46.9 4 23
ARI L 10-20 24 51 47.06 294 0 1 57.1 5 28

I should note that Beathard ran the ball well in his first three starts carrying the ball 14 times for 99 yards (7.1 ypc) with two rushing TDs.

If we assume that Allen starts at least the next two games for Denver, he will be facing 8th and 3rd best scoring defenses in the league in MIN and BUF. He will also be facing both of them on the road. Brandon Allen was effective at using the snap-count in the Broncos favor in his first start, but it is significantly more difficult to do that on the road. Given the challenge of playing against two very good defenses on the road, if Brandon Allen plays well and leads the Broncos to victory, we may have found our 2020 starting QB.

Poll

How do you predict Brandon Allen will perform on the road against the Vikings?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    He’ll tear it up again!
    (145 votes)
  • 48%
    He’ll play well enough for us to win but nowhere near what he did in game one
    (354 votes)
  • 31%
    He’ll stink it up and completely erase all of the good-will he earned from his game one start
    (229 votes)
728 votes total Vote Now