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Pro Football Focus: Numbers show just how bad Bills' pass offense has been

Pro Football Focus Senior Analyst Billy Moy will be contributing to BNblitz.com all season.

Just to set record straight at the start: This is not meant to be an indictment on the future of Bills rookie Josh Allen.

Yes, there will be some moments that aren’t going to make you feel great about Allen’s play to date, and I, like many others, have doubts – and did when Buffalo drafted him in April – about whether he can develop into a franchise quarterback.

It really can’t be stressed enough, though, that not all great quarterbacks play great as a rookie. While it is too soon to write him off, it is possible to critique the present while still holding hope for the future. This is simply a breakdown of how the Bills' passing offense, along with each of their quarterbacks, have performed through the first six games.

With that out of the way, I present to you: The Bills' passing offense of 2018 … so far.

Buffalo’s pass offense has been one of the worst we’ve seen since Pro Football Focus started grading every play of every game in 2006. As of right now, the Bills' 37.7 team passing grade would go down as the second-lowest grade we’ve ever given out, besting only the 2011 Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Bills rank last in completion percentage (50.6 percent), yards per attempt (5.6), total yards (1,005), touchdowns (3) and passer rating (52.2). In addition, Bills quarterbacks have been responsible for 14 turnover-worthy plays (most among all teams), and they’ve been sacked 25 times (second in the league).

It has been as ugly as it gets – especially given the overall state of the passing game league-wide in 2018.

Buffalo has had two quarterbacks see regular season snaps this season: second-year quaterback Nathan Peterman and Allen.

Here are some numbers that highlight just how bad Peterman has been when he's been on the field:

Going back to 2006, there have been 738 instances of a quarterback seeing at least 25 dropbacks in a season, among that group, Peterman in 2018 ranks:

  • 700th with a 53.8 adjusted completion percentage
  • 734th with an average of 3.1 yards per attempt
  • 733rd with an 18.4 passer rating
  • 737th with a 25.6 PFF passing grade
  • His 13.9 turnover-worthy play (TWP) percentage is third highest

Buffalo’s passing offense has been bad this season with Peterman on the bench. When he’s stepped onto the field, though, they’ve gone from bad to one of the worst passing attacks arguably in league history.

When the Bills traded up in April to draft Allen with the seventh overall pick, they knew they were getting a big, athletic kid with a live arm, an arm that might be the strongest in the league. They also knew that he was raw, with a long way to go in his development as a quarterback and that if forced to play early, there would likely be many bumps in the road.

As it has turned out, Allen was forced into action very early, as the Bills turned to the rookie after an abysmal first half from Peterman to start the season in Baltimore. The rookie has dropped back 190 times, and his play has been largely as expected: bad overall with some moments sprinkled in where he’s flashed his potential.

Among the 40 quarterbacks who have seen at least 10 dropbacks this season, Allen ranks 37th with a 50.2 passing grade. He ranks 36th among those quarterbacks with a 64.7 adjusted completion percentage and his 4.2 turnover-worthy play percentage is seventh. Those struggles have been magnified when facing pressure as well, with his adjusted completion percentage dropping to 43.2 percent (ranks 40th) to go with a 21.0 passer rating (also 40th), which is lower than a quarterback's passer rating if they simply just chuck the ball into the dirt every play.

When comparing Allen to the three other rookie quarterbacks who have seen at least 10 dropbacks – all of whom were considered more polished, ready-to-play players coming out of the draft – Allen’s overall performance hasn’t quite been up to the other three:

PFF Passing Grade Adj Comp % Passer Rating TWP % Avg. Depth of Target
Baker Mayfield 77.8 71.8% 71.8 2.2% 10.3
Josh Rosen 66.8 66.7% 67.9 2.7% 9.4
Sam Darnold 60.4 70.3% 81.9 4.3% 9.5
Josh Allen 50.2 64.7% 62.6 4.2% 10.5

Allen has had a rough start to his career since being thrown to the fire in Week 1. That shouldn’t come as a shock nor a slight to his long-term outlook. The Bills are willing to take the lumps now in the hope that he develops into a diamond in the long run.

It hasn’t all been bad for Allen, though, over his first five-plus games.

Look at the throw he made at the beginning of the fourth quarter in Week 1 against Baltimore when the Bills were backed up to third-and-19 deep in their own territory. Buffalo sent four receivers deep and the Ravens dropped into a deep Cover-3 while sending a four-man pass-rush. Allen was patient in the pocket, knowing he needed to give his receivers time to get downfield. The line did a decent job of protecting, but Jordan Mills allowed some late pressure into the pocket after carrying Ravens edge rusher Tim Williams to the top of the pocket.

Allen sensed this pressure and vacated out of the pocket into the open space created outside of his right tackle after Williams made his move to the inside, keeping his eyes downfield. Allen reset quickly in that open space and fired a perfect strike to Logan Thomas 24 yards down the field to pick up the first down.

We classified that play from Allen into a category we call big-time throws (BTT). Allen ranks 25th out of those 40 quarterbacks with a 3.4 BTT percentage. Even though his overall play has been mostly bad, he’s roughly middle of the road when it comes to making those big throws.

Allen also has shown the ability to make some plays with his legs. He ranks fourth among quarterbacks with 97 rushing yards earned after contact and the 12 first downs he’s picked up with his legs rank third by a quarterback. His athleticism was touted coming out of Wyoming, so it’s certainly a positive sign seeing him make good use of it so far as a pro.

Buffalo has played most of the season with a very raw rookie quarterback, and when it hasn’t been him leading the offense, it’s been a second-year quarterback who’s played as poorly as any quarterback over the last 12-plus seasons. Combine that with a receiving corps that ranks last as a unit in terms of PFF receiving grade (54.2), and that is how the Bills have ended up being one of the worst passing attacks we’ve seen in quite some time.

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