The Josh Allen experience

How did the Bills quarterback fare in his second season?

Howard Simon
January 20, 2020 - 3:46 pm
Josh Allen

Photo: Kevin Jairaj - USA TODAY Sports

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With the 2019 Buffalo Bills season in the books, what did we learn in Year 2 of the Josh Allen experience?

As far as where he stands in comparison to his Class of 2018 quarterback draft colleagues, we know Allen isn’t as good as Lamar Jackson at this point, but he is better than Josh Rosen. Allen has had more team success than Sam Darnold, and got better from Year 1 to Year 2 as opposed to Baker Mayfield.

But a step forward doesn’t mean there's a definitive answer yet.

While Allen improved in a number of areas, he, and the rest of the offense, need to take an even bigger step next season. If the Bills have to lean on Allen’s arm to win games, he has to show that he is up to that task.

I’m getting too far ahead of myself, so lets get back to the recently completed season.

There are a number of things to feel good about as a Bills fan when evaluating Allen’s performance.

In terms of the big picture, he has shown the ability to learn from coaching and from mistakes. If you go back to his rookie season, Allen post-injury was better than Allen pre-injury. The Allen we saw at the beginning of this past season was better than the one we watched at the end of his rookie year. Allen proceeded to improve as season No. 2 played out, especially after a very rough outing, probably his worst of the season, during a Week 4 loss to the New England Patriots.

The areas of improvement included Allen taking what the defense was giving him. The competitor in Allen always wants to make the bigger pass play downfield, but the coaches hammered home the idea of a shorter completion and positive yards sometimes being the better decision, and I thought Allen took that to heart. I’d much rather have a quarterback who wants to make the big play but is smart enough to take the checkdown when necessary as opposed to a quarterback who won’t take any chances and, more often than not, makes the safer, but shorter throw.

I think Allen achieved a better balance when it came to his decision making.

He was even able to complete a few of the deep throws in the back end of the schedule when it looked like he might go a whole season without connecting on a throw of 30-plus yards. If I had to guess, I’d say Allen was so focused on not turning the ball over with interceptions that when he wound up for those deep throws, he made sure to error on the side of an overthrow. If that was the case, I’d like Allen to be less concerned about a pick because he has a defense good enough to limit points off turnovers. 

While there were areas of improvement, Allen obviously still has room for growth.

Ball security was an issue early in the season and came back again in the final month of games. Like most young quarterbacks, he needs to be better when pressured. Allen’s numbers were not great when pressured, whether it was from a three-man rush, four-man rush or a blitz. He needs to stay calm, try and see there field and make the right play as opposed to spinning around and looking lost. 

Allen got some very valuable experience playing in pressure games on the big stage with games against the Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, New England and of course the playoff game against the Houston Texans. I don’t think you can understate how important that experience is for the development of a young quarterback. Allen was a better quarterback after that Week 4 loss to the Patriots in Orchard Park, and as painful as the Wild Card defeat to the Texans was, I would expect Allen to learn and grow from that as well.

He needs to since more will be expected from him and the offense next season. An average of 19 points per-game just isn’t good enough. It puts way too much pressure on the Bills defense, so it's time for the offense to show it can carry the load.

Not surprisingly, that all starts with the quarterback.

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