The 2020 NFL season will be the third for Josh Allen in the NFL, and his third as quarterback of the Buffalo Bills. In his rookie year, he broke the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in their first eight starts previously held by Michael Vick. In his second year, he relied on more than just athleticism and improved as a passer. He is a raw, young, project quarterback, who is nowhere near a finished product. He can dazzle you on one play and baffle you on the next. Excite you in one game and confound you in another. As of this very moment, despite the amounts of both praise and criticism, the jury is still out on Allen. However, year three for the young quarterback will go a long way in telling us what he is and what he will become.
Josh Allen and the Truth
In his short time in the NFL Josh Allen has been one of the most polarizing players in the league due to his play. Take 2019 for example. Allen made very positive strides in his intermediate passing accuracy. He was also one of the worst deep ball throwers. He was tied for ninth in total touchdowns in only 15 games and he reduced his interceptions. But he also struggled making reads and decisions at times. The point with all of it is that Allen is still developing. He’s still progressing. To make declarative statements on him now, or speak about him in absolutes now, wouldn’t be right. There’s reasons why Bills fans and NFL fans should be patient with Allen. But there’s also reasons why Allen needs to make a big jump in his game in 2020.
Why He Was a Project Quarterback Coming out off College
Josh Allen was drafted seventh overall in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Wyoming. In college he played in 27 games, threw 649 passes, and faced a lower level of competition in the MWC. For reference, in college Sam Darnold played in 27 games, threw 846 passes, and faced high caliber talent in the PAC-12. Baker Mayfield in college played in 48 games, threw 1,497 passes, and faced high caliber talent in the BIG-12. Lamar Jackson played in 38 games, threw 1,086 passes, and faced high caliber talent in the ACC. So it’s easy to see why there were more uncertainties for Allen coming out of college than some of the other quarterbacks in his class.
Compared to the other quarterbacks in his class, Allen was very much unproven. Filled with potential and in possession of raw gifts and talents? Yes. But still very much unproven. Again, he threw 649 passes in 27 games. That’s an average of roughly 24 passes a game. And he did it against talent that many would consider to be below an NFL level. He didn’t have enough opportunity to refine his skills and become a polished passer in college. He didn’t have enough opportunities to be sharpened by quality talent around him or against him. Allen was drafted because of his athleticism, and the flashes of remarkable ability he showed in college. And also because he has a canon for an arm. He was a high risk high reward prospect that wasn’t expected to come in and start as a rookie and set the world on fire.
Why He Still Is a Project Quarterback
Remember, Josh Allen wasn’t slated to be the starter his rookie year. The Bills wanted him to sit and take the game in and learn. They wanted him to develop. The starting job was thrust upon him. And because he set some quarterback rushing records and jumped over linebackers his rookie year he gave the impression that he was ahead in his development timeline. But he wasn’t. His athleticism and raw talent overshadowed the deficiencies in his game as a passer.
Allen raised his completion percentage six percentage points from year one to year two. He became a very good intermediate passer in year two. He let the game come to him a bit more in year two. All very positive signs and indicators of growth. Josh Allen also had very poor mechanics on his deep throws. He struggled at times to identify defenses and react against cover zero blitzes. And he missed open targets in several areas of the field. All very common signs and indicators of a project quarterback who is still developing.
Josh Allen is not consistent enough in his game right now. For every high point he hits he also hits an equally low point. But perspective is needed. He doesn’t even have two full seasons worth of games under his belt at the NFL level. Allen has less games under his belt in the NFL than Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson had in college alone. He’s not terrible. Nor is he a sure thing. It is completely fair to applaud Allen, or to criticize and question him and how good of a passer he is and will be. But there needs to be perspective either way.
Why Year Three Is so Important
Josh Allen was a project coming out of college. He’s still a project now. However, he needs to make another jump in his game this upcoming season in year three. His rookie year in 2018, the Bills had one of the worst offensive lines in football and lacked weapons for him to throw to. His second year in 2019, the Bills upgraded the offensive line and added new wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs. Nine of the 11 offensive starters were new. As expected and hoped, Allen made strides in his game in his second year.
Going into year three, those starters from last year are back. There are no player continuity issues. The offensive system and coordinator are the same. And the Bills traded for Stefon Diggs and drafted Zack Moss. The Buffalo Bills offense has talent, depth, chemistry, and continuity. The Buffalo Bills have set up Josh Allen for success. As of this moment, he has no excuse to not be significantly better in 2020.
The Buffalo Bills roster as a whole is championship caliber. And I would venture to say that if they had a proven commodity at quarterback they’d be an easy Super Bowl contender. They have a returning defense that was top three last year in yards per game allowed and points per game allowed. They have one of the best wide receiver groupings in the entire NFL. This Buffalo Bills team has expectations and hopes in 2020. They have four prime time games for the first time since 1996. And their success or failure will be placed on the shoulders of Josh Allen. Because of the talent on this Bills roster, if Allen doesn’t progress further it’ll be fair to ask how good he can really be.
What It All Means for Josh Allen
Josh Allen is an exciting young NFL quarterback. He lacks polish in his mechanics and refinement as a passer. His overall complement of tools and abilities and jaw dropping plays have covered up the areas he struggles in. And all of that, should be no surprise. Because all of that is common amongst raw project quarterbacks who are still developing and who are also in the early stages of their career. And that is what Allen is. And that’s okay because that’s who the Bills thought they were getting when they drafted him. Allen evolved his game in his second year. He’ll need to do so again in year three with the weapons he now has at his disposal. He’s still young. He’s still a project. But the pressure is on now and there will be little acceptance for anything other than further improvement from him.
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