Through two games this season, Josh Allen has been less than the MVP-caliber quarterback that Buffalo Bills fans saw last season.
While there may not be any immediate cause for concern for the Bills after Allen faced two strong defenses and still did enough to help the team to a 1-1 record and a share of first place in the AFC East, an insider has broken down the uncharacteristic struggles Allen has seen so far this season.
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Allen Struggling With Accuracy
After a season in which he broke a slew of team records and led the Bills to the AFC title game for the first time in nearly three decades, Allen has struggled a bit to start the 2021 season. The fourth-year quarterback has completed 56 percent of his passes for 449 total yards, with three touchdowns and one interception, closer to the production from his first two seasons in the league than the MVP runner-up campaign from last year.
Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic delved deeper into the ways that Allen has struggled, pointing out that a disproportionate number of passes have been to Allen’s left side, and that his overall accuracy on these attempts is down from last season. Buscaglia noted that the small sample size this year could have an effect, with Allen often being forced to roll out to his left against the Pittsburgh Steelers due to the sustained pressure of T.J. Watt from the right side.
Allen has also seen a dip in accuracy among intermediate throws, those traveling 10 to 25 yards. This was an area where Allen excelled last year, but this year he is completing only 33.3 percent of passes within this range.
“This has been, by far, the most significant swing of Allen’s passing profile,” Buscaglia noted. “While some throwaways need to be accounted for, this is still not what you want to see. His yards per attempt on these throws have fallen off a cliff as well. In 2020, Allen averaged 11.45 yards per attempt on intermediate throws. This year, he’s averaging only 5.83.”
There are some signs of improvement. The Bills did a better job of working play-action passes into the gameplan in their Week 2 win over the Miami Dolphins after getting away from this staple of their 2020 offense against the Steelers, Buscaglia added.
“The Bills should continue leaning into play action against expectation to help Allen through his lull regardless of the result,” he wrote. “The Bills were excellent on those plays in 2020, averaging 7.9 yards per play.”
Allen Praised for Decision-Making
The numbers may not tell the entire story about Allen’s season. Jim Kubiak, a former NFL quarterback turned coach at the Western New York Quarterback Academy, believes that Allen has shown strong decision-making through two games this year. Writing for the Buffalo News, Kubiak noted that Allen made the right decisions and has taken care of the football, sometimes at the expense of his own statistics.
“Allen played with patience, passion and veteran leadership,” Kubiak wrote. “His poise was on display as he threw the football away five times, which went a long way to keeping drives alive and minimizing offensive miscues. When opportunities weren’t there, Allen played smart, checking himself rather than attempting to force a result. While the throwaways hurt him statistically as incompletions, this approach shows growth and maturity and provides a blueprint for his future success.”
Allen has also admitted that he has some things to work on, but also pointed out that the Bills have been effective in the rushing game.
“But hats off to our guys up front and our running backs for establishing a run game early,” he said, via SI.com’s Bills Central. “That helped us out so much. They did a hell of a job protecting all day.