Buffalo Bills

Bills’ playoffs hopes rest on Josh Allen’s improvement

Sean McDermott’s club looks to make the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. And the key will be how much quarterback Josh Allen progresses in ’19.

Constant change and the Buffalo Bills have gone hand in hand the last few offseasons. There’s been two different general managers, a number of trades and a slew of free-agent signings. Unfortunately, it hasn’t added up to much in terms of success. Yes, the franchise reached the playoffs in 2017 with a 9-7 record, the club’s first postseason appearance since 1999. But it was a short-lived trip and this past season, another new-look Bills’ squad dropped to 6-10 and third place in the AFC East.

The season wasn’t without bright spots and that includes rookie quarterback Josh Allen. When the wheeling and dealing was done last offseason, general manager Brandon Beane moved up to the seventh spot in the 2018 draft to secure the services of the strong-armed signal-caller.

While Allen’s forte was on display when given the time, it was his legs that got far too much work in his debut campaign. Playing behind an offensive line that simply couldn’t get the job done, the rookie wound up leading the team with 631 yards on the ground and finished with more than half (8) of the Bills’ 15 rushing touchdowns. As for his passing prowess, Allen would hit on just 52.8 percent of his thrown for 2,074 yards and 10 scores, with a dozen interceptions. Of course, he was sacked 28 times and lost two of his eight fumbles. The wings weren’t the only thing feeling the heat in Buffalo in 2018.

Of course, Beane was extremely busy this offseason. The list of additions to the offensive side of the football is somewhat endless. Up front, there’s tackles Ty Nsekhe, LaAdrian Waddle and second-round pick Cody Ford. The Bills brought in center Mitch Morse from the Kansas City Chiefs. There’s a slew of guards in Spencer Long, Quinton Spain, and Jon Feliciano. Joining LeSean McCoy in the backfield are versatile T.J. Yeldon and ageless Frank Gore. Zay Jones, who led Buffalo in receptions a year ago and finished with seven of the team’s 13 scores through the air, is joined by fellow wide receivers WR John Brown and Cole Beasley and tight ends Tyler Kroft and Lee Smith.

That’s a lot of upheaval on the offense and a lot of new players for Allen to build rapport with. So how is the 23-year-old quarterback faring this year to date this offseason? Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll spoke on Tuesday on WGR550 with Howard Simon and Jeremy White:

Josh has made progress since he’s been here. He’s made progress throughout the OTAs and he’s made progress just in these four days. I have confidence in Josh. He’s a second-year player that has a good grasp of what we want to do, and this is the time to do it. There’s going to be times where you’re going to be out there practicing against our defense, who’s a good defense, and he’s going to learn as camp goes what throws to make and what throws he should maybe hang from. I want him to make those throws, and I want to try and make him throw in tight windows, on time and make the tough ones. That’s only going to make us better as we sit back and look at the tape to try and improve that.

That’s all well and good. But the knock on Allen coming out of the University of Wyoming was his inaccuracy. And regardless of the circumstances, that dismal 52.8 completion percentage doesn’t sit well in an error where quarterbacks in this league hit on well over 60 percent of their throws. The addition of speedster John Brown gives Allen a quality deep threat but it could be the signings of Beasley and Yeldon that help much more.

Upending the New England Patriots in the AFC East has been a failed task for the Bills, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets the past 10 seasons. The Bills have been looking for a quarterback for an awfully long time and Allen certainly has the goods. Can all the changes made around him make him a better player? Those additions should definitely help. But it’s this young performer that must also step up his game in the aforementioned several ways if Buffalo is to circle a playoff appearance on their calendar in 2019.

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