For almost two decades the Buffalo Bills had been a joke around the league. Stuck in a 6-10 to 8-8 purgatory, the franchise couldn’t do anything right, consistently looking for new general managers, head coaches, and players who could end the playoff drought and help a dormant franchise reestablish themselves as an AFC powerhouse. They failed miserably in this task,at least until 2017.
With Sean McDermott hired as the team’s new head coach and Brandon Beane coming as the new GM just after, the Bills became a perennial playoff contender (two appearances in the last three years), while they rebuilt the roster almost entirely (defensive end Jerry Hughes is the only remaining player from Doug Whaley’s era).
With the team well positioned in early power rankings and having four prime time games scheduled for the first time since 1996, it’s fair to assume the Buffalo Bills are earning the league’s respect back. The 2020 season is a pivotal one in this process, and no player can benefit more from this opportunity than the polarizing third-year quarterback, Josh Allen.
Widely recognized as a very raw prospect with elite physical tools, Allen was drafted in 2018 and quickly became the team’s starting QB after Nathan Peterman failed to hold the job even for an entire game. Allen struggled early and got injured, but it proved to be beneficial for the rookie. He sat out some games and could watch how a longtime NFL veteran (Derek Anderson) approached practices and games on weekly basis. Allen came back from injury more prepared and confident, and he finished the roller coaster season on a high note.
— VERSACEBOYENT (@versaceboyent2) December 30, 2018
After all the promise from the last stretch in 2018, Allen got an entire offseason as the team’s undisputed starter in 2019. He had established himself as the centerpiece of the struggling Bills’ offense in the previous year, but now he would have more help around him. Unproductive players like LeSean McCoy, Charles Clay, and Zay Jones were replaced by Devin Singletary, John Brown, Cole Beasley, and Dawson Knox. The awful offensive line was completely rebuilt, with only Dion Dawkins remaining from the previous year.
“Josh Allen can’t throw”
“Josh Allen should be a TE”
“Can’t hit a deep ball”
“Only can run”
“Not accurate at all”
People will hate until the end of time, but saying these things is just ignorant. We know we have a future star QB.
— John Brown SZN 💨 (@JBrownSZN) April 13, 2020
The Wyoming product took advantage of his new weapons and showed tangible progress from year one to two. Previously a boom-or-bust type of QB who relied too much on his scrambling ability and play-action fakes to fool opposing defenses, Allen became a more polished passer in the short and intermediate areas, consistently hitting teammates on those areas of the field, especially on hitches and comeback routes, where he could set his feet and throw darts to his targets.
This jump from 2018 to 2019 for Allen in the intermediate range 👌
— Max Wroblewski (@MaxWroblewski4) May 2, 2020
He was still inconsistent and the deep ball wasn’t there, but the improvement was undeniable. He increased his total touchdowns from 18 (10 pass, 8 rush) in his rookie season to 29 in 2019 (20 pass, 9 rush) in 2020, and his passer rating from 67.9 to 85.3. Allen also decreased his interceptions numbers from 12 in 2018 to nine last year, throwing just two in his last 12 games and none in the fourth quarter or in the red zone (only QB in the league to accomplish this feat). He led the league in game-winning drives with five (tied with Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson), and in fourth quarter comebacks with four (tied with Russell Wilson and Jimmy Garoppolo). That’s not bad company for an “inaccurate QB” who’s the biggest project taken in the first round in years.
R. Wilson 2013 (age 25)
27 TD (26 pass/1 rush)
3357 pass yds
539 rush yds
9 INT / 5 fum lost
16.1 comp per gm
2.8 sack per gm
J. Allen 2019 (age 23)
29 TD (20 pass/9 rush)
3089 pass yds
510 rush yds
9 INT / 4 fum lost
16.9 comp per gm
2.4 sack per gm pic.twitter.com/kw99mhaZQy
— Bills QB Watch (@BillsQBwatch) May 7, 2020
With a top-three defense leading the way, Allen again was the main piece of the offense, which improved from one of the worst in the league in 2018 (31st-ranked, according to Football Outsiders DVOA metric) to a below average one (21st-ranked in DVOA).
Buffalo reached the playoffs and Allen played well enough give Buffalo their first playoff win since 1996 (though of course that didn’t happen), throwing for 264 yards and adding 92 on the ground and even receiving a 16-yard TD. He could have had one or two more TD passes, but teammates let him down on a couple of pinpoint accurate passes, and he had just put the team in field goal range in overtime, when a blindside block penalty was called against Cody Ford, killing the play.
The third-year pro is far from a finished product. In fact, Allen isn’t a great NFL QB yet, struggling with consistency throwing the ball, lacking better ball placement on deep throws, and fumbling far too often (14 fumbles in 2020, four lost). His 58.8 completion percentage and 6.7 yards per pass attempt aren’t good enough, and he needs to improve those marks. However, he’s the ultimate competitor and already an elite play-maker at the QB position, consistently making singular plays with his arm or feet to extend plays and keep drives alive. Allen is the type of QB who refuses to lose games, shown by his previously mentioned awesome performances in the clutch.
Still cant believe Josh Allen was able to pick up the first down… avoid 2 free rushers and beat the Qb Spy that Von Miller was on pic.twitter.com/eybl6ZLD4L
— Buffalo Tings (@Buffalotings) January 1, 2020
Yes, Josh Allen needs to keep growing. He consistently improved throughout his first two NFL seasons, and with another offseason in Brian Daboll’s offense, more chemistry with his offensive teammates (all 11 offensive starters from last year are coming back in 2020), and an even deeper defensive group expected to keep the top-three level for the foreseeable future, there’s no reason to not expect yet another leap in production from the young signal caller.
Add Stefon Diggs to the equation and Allen will have a true #1 receiver for the first time in his career, giving him options like never before. Just like Brown and Beasley put up some of the best numbers in their career playing alongside the young Bills QB, Diggs should also produce at a very high level. That’s by far the most talented group Allen has ever had around him.
He’s EXACTLY what Allen needs in a receiver. pic.twitter.com/e4S3WIKDde
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) March 17, 2020
The stage is set. The NFL is finally curious about the Bills again. The prime time games are back, and the reinforcements came via free agency and draft. On paper, it’s a talented team with deep playoff run potential. No one can take advantage off this scenario more than Josh Allen.
He’s a baller, and if he takes one more step forward this year, continuing to grow in the mental and technical parts of the QB position, then we could see the rise of the NFL’s newest bonafide star. He has a lot of critics waiting to see him fail, perilously attached to their pre-draft opinions. On the other hand, Allen has the perfect situation around him to maximize his potential. Now, the ball is in his hands, and it’s time to show the world who Josh Allen really is. Bills Mafia can’t wait.