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Half full or half empty? Bills' Josh Allen improved in almost every category

Buffalo Bills fans can spend all offseason debating their perspective on quarterback Josh Allen.

Is the glass half full or half empty?

Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has no hesitation about where he comes down. In fact, Daboll’s glass is way more than half full on Allen.

“Just overall improvement is what I like,” Daboll told The Buffalo News after the final game of the regular season. “He’s very level headed. I appreciate really everything about him, how he comes to work. I appreciate his professionalism, his accountability, how he deals with the entire organization from the top down. And how he is off the field. I have a lot of respect for him as a young player and how he approaches the job.”

The bottom line on Allen’s season: He got better in almost every measurable way over his rookie season.

His completion percentage rose from 52.8% as a rookie to 58.8%. That 6% rise was the third best improvement of any quarterback in the NFL, behind only Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson (up 7.9% to 66.1%) and Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill (up 6.1% to 70.3%).

Glass half empty? Allen still ranks 32nd in the NFL in completion percentage.

Still, Allen’s across-the-board improvements are undeniable.

He was up from 32nd to 23rd in passing yards, from 31st to 18th in TD percentage, from 32nd to 16th in interception rate and from 32nd to 24th in passer rating.

More importantly, his record as a starter went from 5-6 to 10-6. He tied for first in the NFL in game-winning drives (five) and in fourth-quarter comebacks (four).

And Allen cut way back on his interceptions after a three-interception game against the New England Patriots in September. Over the last 12 games of the regular season, Allen produced 23 touchdowns (counting rushing TDs) and three interceptions.

Allen produced 18 TDs and 12 INTs as a rookie. This year, he had 29 TDs and 9 INTs. That TD-to-INT differential of plus-20 was ninth best in the NFL. How much more could he be expected to improve in one season?

Allen’s deep passing did not improve. He completed just 25.7% on passes 20-plus yards beyond the line of scrimmage, and his rate ranked fourth worst in the league (adjusting for drops).

Deep accuracy remains a mechanics question for Josh Allen

“We have a lot of faith in him in anything that we call, short, intermediate or deep,” Daboll said. “At the end of the day, that’s why Brandon Beane drafted him, and we’re happy that he did.”

On throws of under 20 yards – which is the vast majority of passes in the NFL – Allen’s accuracy improved from 65.9% as a rookie to 71.9% this year.

Given how much attention was paid to Allen’s accuracy coming out of college, it’s not going to be easy for him to shake the inaccuracy label. Every time he misses an easy one – remember the too-low swing pass to a wide-open Patrick DiMarco in Pittsburgh – it reinforces the reputation.

"Look, trust me, every quarterback’s going to have some of those," Daboll said of the incompletion to DiMarco.

Obviously, a lot more goes into accuracy numbers than throwing the ball.

Like most second-year quarterbacks, Allen still is in a developmental stage in terms of reading defenses. He missed open plays in the Houston wild-card game. At times against man coverage, which the Bills saw more of as the season wore on, Allen takes too long to get off his first read.

Daboll said Allen will have a natural progression on getting to his secondary routes better.

“It’s time on task,” Daboll said. “We have a variety of option routes in the game plan. It’s about body language and time on task with throws and anticipation and reps.

“When you have an option route with the quarterback, you have to be so in tune with the body language of the receiver because there’s different types of routes,” Daboll said.

Another year working with the same receivers is only going to improve the efficiency of Allen and the offense, Daboll said.

“When you have option routes, it’s the receiver’s decision. So the throw and timing is not going to be just like that,” he said, snapping his fingers. “Versus you want to run a curl route. You know where he’s going to be at 12 yards or 14 yards or 16 yards. He’s going to be on the inside edge of the numbers, he’s going to be 3 yards from the sideline, or he’s going to be 2 yards inside the numbers and you can let it rip.

“When you have players who have short-space quickness, like Cole (Beasley), Motor (Devin Singletary), guys like that, you’re relying on their eyes and how they see it. That’s how it works.”

Allen’s most impressive throws get fans, teammates and coaches excited. Those plays scream “elite ability.”

One example was a 29-yard pass to Beasley early in the win at Dallas. The Bills were backed up on their own 2-yard line, facing third and 10. Allen slid to his right, stepped up and made a laser strike into a tight window.

“Very, very impressive,” Daboll said. “The ability to move in the pocket and keep his eyes downfield. It was a tight window throw. He did a good job with that read.”

Then there was the big arm strength he showed beating Miami’s Cover 2 defense with a 40-yard laser to John Brown for a TD.

“He’s an instinctive player but he’s also a smart player,” Daboll said. “He has a good feel for defenses. He has a good feel for in-game adjustments and the things that happen within the game that he sees. It’s all stuff we continue to work on. I’ve said it numerous times, I’m very happy with his progress.”

Bills' faith in Josh Allen has been unwavering – now it must be rewarded

Arguably the best throw of Allen’s season was the 53-yard bomb to Brown in New England, when the QB anticipated the route and let the pass go before Brown made his break and just before getting hit in the pocket.

“That was an example too of trust in his player,” Daboll said. “Impressive. But that’s also an example of what’s helped Josh: John Brown. What’s helped Josh is Cole Beasley, Frank Gore. Devin Singletary, Mitch Morse, Jon Feliciano, Quinton Spain.”

“I want him to turn it loose,” Daboll said. “I want him to trust what he sees. You can get second-guessed all you want playing the quarterback position. But he’s the one who has to make split-second decisions. I trust him to make those.”

The challenge for Allen: Improving to the same degree again in Year Three.

Josh Allen By The Numbers
Year Record Att (rank) Comp (rk) Pct (rk) Yds (rk) TD (%rk) INT (%rk) Rating Rush Yds (rk) Rush TD (rk)
2019 10-6 461 (21) 271 (26) 58.8 (32) 3089 (23) 20 (18) 9 (t16) 85.3 (24) 510 (3) 9 (1)
2018 5-6 320 (30) 169 (32) 52.8 (33) 2074 (32) 10 (31) 12 (32) 67.9 (32) 631 (2) 8 (1)
Note: Ranking for rush yards and rush TD are among QBs only
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