Hey Bills Mafia! I wanted to switch it up here and stray from only talking to you all about injuries. As we all know, the Bills’ injury report is as long as a CVS receipt, as are most teams’ injury reports in 2020. (You have to feel bad for San Francisco fans at this point.) I want to dive into Josh Allen here for you because, as Bills fans, who doesn’t want to read more about the QB?
At work, I usually have the radio on in the background because I’m a football junkie, whether it’s WGR 550 via the app, podcasts from fellow Buffalo Fanatics contributors, or popular media guys like Colin Cowherd. Earlier this week, I heard Colin Cowherd talking about Miami and Tua Tagovailoa. He was saying how it’s a possibility that Tua could be auditioning for his job despite only going into his second career start because the Dolphins do hold the Texans’ first and second-round draft picks, and could be in the position to grab Ohio State QB Justin Fields.
First off, I don’t buy this at all. Tua is their future, no matter how he looks the remainder of this season. During this, Cowherd started talking about many of the young QB’s in the NFL and started talking about Josh Allen and how he “continues to struggle”. I thought to myself “Oh, here we go again.” I’m willing to bet Cowherd hasn’t watched a full Bills game yet this season. Whatever, let’s take a look at Josh Allen’s stats so far and his progression from year 1 to year 3.
Josh Allen was a raw prospect coming out of Wyoming and many felt he shouldn’t see the field at all his rookie season. I know you all watch the games religiously as I do. I don’t need to tell you how 2018 unfolded. Allen was thrown into the fire as a raw project QB with a horrible supporting cast. The media couldn’t wait to watch him struggle and fail, just so they could point their fingers and say, “I told you so!” I don’t care who you are. You are not putting up numbers throwing to Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones as your top 2 WR’s. The offensive line was abysmal with guys like Jordan Mills starting. Let’s look at Allen’s stats from his rookie season.
Stat line: 12 games, 52.8% completion percentage, 2,074 yards, 10 TDs/12 INTs, 631 rushing yards, and 8 rush TDs. Below is a graph from NFL’s next gen stats:
Yeah, that’s an UGLY stat line and graph. But, Josh Allen showed things in his rookie season that don’t show up on the stat line. He showed leadership, toughness, and heart. Games that stand out to me off the top of my head include his first start against the Chargers. He struggled mightily, but he was on the sideline firing up the defense and showing his leadership skills. Both games against Miami are easy to remember as well. He played his butt off in Miami despite the loss. This game came down to the drop by Charles Clay in the endzone, but Josh was the entire offense in this game. The season finale at home vs Miami was great as well. Josh ended the game with five total TDs and left Bills fans very hopeful heading into the offseason. It was very important to remember (and still is) that Allen did not play as much football at the college level in comparison to his 2018 draft classmates and was a huge work in progress. He still is!
The lead up to the 2019 season was fun. GM Brandon Beane brought in guys like Mitch Morse, John Brown, Cole Beasley, Tyler Kroft, Dawson Knox, Devin Singletary, Jon Feliciano, and Cody Ford. Say what you want about how all of these guys have performed to date, but this is an example of a GM giving his young QB a chance at improvement and success. If you don’t do this for your guy, you become the Jets and ruin a fantastic QB prospect like Darnold. In Allen’s second season, his team finished with a 10-6 record and a Wild Card berth. If the starters all played in Week 17, it’s most likely an 11-5 finish. Was 2019’s success a result of the defense more than the offense? Yeah, probably. But that doesn’t mean Allen didn’t show improvements and get much better as an NFL QB.
Here is Allen’s Year 2 stat line: 16 games, 58.8 completion percentage, 3,089 yards, 20 TDs/9 INTs, 510 rushing yards, 9 rush TDs. At a quick glance, we see an improvement in every category except rushing yards. Here’s his NFL next gen stats graph for Year 2:
When you look at the graphs and compare, you can see Allen improved by decreasing red zones from five to two. Allen improved green zones from one to three. Yes, these are small improvements, but we need to keep remembering that Allen was and still is a raw prospect, and he deserves credit for this jump. He saw the field too quickly than he should have and had to put in a lot of work during the season and off-season with his trainers and coaches.
Let’s look at Year 3, which is obviously the present. We are eight games into this season which is a good enough sample size for us to look at and feel confident. First, let’s credit Brandon Beane again because his trade for WR1 Stefon Diggs was absolutely incredible. Now, don’t get me wrong; I love John Brown and Cole Beasley. They play their roles perfectly, and it’s easy to see Allen trusts and loves these two guys. They are great route runners and are great assets to have. However, there’s nothing wrong with saying neither of these guys is Stefon Diggs.
In Diggs, you get a true alpha male at a position where you need one. WRs need to be confident, physical, and have the mental makeup where they know they can beat the guy across from them and make a play and also let you know about it. Diggs brings a threat where defensive coordinators have to game plan for him and refs are more likely to give you those ticky-tack defensive holding or pass interference calls, and we’ll take them! At this moment, Diggs is second in the NFL in receiving yards with 695 yards. His contributions have helped Allen greatly. The Bills currently sit with a 6-2 record and in first place in the AFC East. Let’s look at Allen’s stats so far:
Allen’s Year 3 stats so far: 67.1% completion percentage, 2,172 passing yards, 16 TDs, 5 INTs, 227 rush yards, and 4 rushing TDs. Let’s look at his NFL’s next gen stats graph for 2020:
I smiled when I inserted this graph! Allen has gone from three green zones to nine! He still has two red zones but has shown in the past he can be better when throwing to the left side of the field, so there’s no big concern from me here for those two current reds. The lone yellow zone here is the deep middle, which happened to be red in both 2018 and 2019. Here’s another stat that is eye-opening: passing on target percentage is a good metric to measure true accuracy. Josh Allen currently rates sixth in the NFL with an 80.6% on target percentage. That’s not bad for an inaccurate QB! Over the offseason, Broncos fans were trying to prepare everyone for the Drew Lock MVP tour. He sits dead last in the league with a 65.9% on target percentage. Fellow 2018 draft classmates of Allen including Lamar Jackson and Sam Darnold are in the bottom six of the league in this category with 72% and 73.9%. These stats were provided by Johnny Kinsley of BrickwallBlitz.
Many people will point and say that Allen has been blessed with a better supporting cast than these other young QBs, and they’re not wrong. Allen has a top-five WR corps. But that’s not something to use against Allen, as he deserves credit here. Allen has taken tremendous strides. Beane, Daboll, McDermott, Jordan Palmer, and Ken Dorsey all deserve credit as well for their work and help with Josh Allen. Josh Allen has shown that he wants it. He has the “it” factor. He hates to lose just as much as he wants to win. When you draft a young QB to be your franchise leader, the intangibles you look for are right there in Josh Allen.
Josh Allen is NOT a finished product. He’s not the MVP candidate he was in the first quarter of the season, and, of course, he needs to improve. No sane Bills fan will tell you that Allen is perfect or even great. Allen has been good but has shown flashes of being great so far this season. The schedule gets tougher over the second half of this season, and Allen has his work cut out for him. But his improvements from year to year so far are undeniable. His trajectory shows he’s doing it, and there’s reason to believe he will continue to get better.
Allen should feel flattered today. On Sunday, the greatest coach and defensive mind of all time in football history game planned to force the Bills to run because he knew Allen could beat his defense through the air. Last year, Belichick blitzed Allen like his life depended on it. On Sunday, Belichick called 36 defensive snaps in Dime formation with 6 DB’s on the field and 18 snaps in quarter formation with 7 DB’s on the field. Belichick is known to take away the opposing team’s strengths, and he looks at Allen’s passing ability as the Bills’ strength. Now, THAT says a lot.
Week 9 is going to be a challenge. Seattle is red hot, and Russell Wilson is the MVP favorite. DK Metcalf is a freak (alpha!) and Tyler Lockett is amazing, to say the least. If the Bills want to win, the offense will need to go toe to toe with this Seahawks’ offense. Is Josh Allen up to the task? We will find out soon. He has shown the ability to do so. Now, it’s time for that ability to show up consistently.
Thanks for reading!