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Rags To Riches: Josh Allen’s Rise To Stardom

One of the biggest stories of the 2020 NFL season has been the emergence of Buffalo Bills quarterback, Josh Allen. A young, athletic QB with loads of promise, Allen was projected to improve like most third year players do. However, he has taken a larger leap than even his most optimistic fans would have imagined. Granted, it’s been three games, but it’s been more than enough to say that he has significantly improved his game. So, we have to ask ourselves a question – how did he take the leap?

The Addition of Stefon Diggs

James P. McCoy/AP

Allen has made a name for himself as a “gunslinger” in the NFL. While the accuracy hasn’t been there, he’s constantly willing to throw the ball a mile down the field and push the tempo to help kickstart the offense. However, throwing downfield and completing passes downfield are two completely different things. He knew how to throw it, but his accuracy on these throws were a glaring issue.

Now enter Stefon Diggs, one of the NFL’s best deep threats and a perfect wide receiver to pair with Allen. Diggs is a bonafide speedster who can run routes and catch those 45-yard bombs. There were questions how this duo would fit together, but so far they’ve blown all expectations out of the water. Diggs is currently 4th in total receiving yards and has two touchdowns to pair with it. Allen is second in both total passing yards and passing touchdowns.

John Brown is an underrated wide receiver who doesn’t get the credit he deserves, but Diggs was the real answer to all of Allen’s prayers. A quarterback is only as good as his surroundings, and Diggs has proven to be a terrific fit next to Allen and has really helped this offense improve and become more dangerous.

However, giving Diggs all the credit would be wrong here. He’s been a huge help no doubt, but we also have to look at the quarterback and see how much he has improved.

Allen’s Accuracy Improvement

Mark Konezny/USA Today Sports

One of the biggest knocks on Josh Allen as a player was his accuracy; or lack thereof. It was his kryptonite when he was entering the pros and it still haunts him to this day. To say he has become some ridiculously accurate QB would be ludicrous. However, Allen has taken the rightful strides to become a better and more accurate quarterback. Here are some advanced accuracy stats from last season:

StatTrue CMP%Redzone CMP%Deep Ball CMP%Pressured CMP%Clean Pocket CMP%Bad Throw %CMP% above expectation
His %64.749.125.017.167.020.3-3.7
His Rank33rd best46th best33rd best34th best34th best5th worst5th worst

As you can see, Allen was one of the least accurate quarterbacks in the entire NFL last season. He was, simply put, bad. He was fun to watch and his run game separated him from guys like Mitch Trubisky. This year, he has taken a step forward in nearly every advanced accuracy stat and that has been so crucial for the Bills’ success. While he wasn’t quite as turnover prone as he was in his rookie year, his so-called “bread and butter” of his skillset was arguably his worst trait (deep ball passing).

Even looking at regular numbers to get a simpler picture can help us. Here are his regular numbers from last year compared to this year:

StatCMP%YPGAY/AANY/AQBR
201958.8193.16.75.7147.9
202071.1346.010.59.3988.7

As you can see, he’s become drastically better and it’s hard to believe that someone can go from an inaccurate, below-average QB to one of the best in the NFL. However, that’s exactly what he did. Allen has also been able to push the ball down field more accurately and he’s gotten better in the short game as well. Another stat that shows his improvement is the fact that his on target percentage went from 21st in the league to 4th; an incredible jump. Small sample size? Absolutely, but he’s taking all the right steps forward to becoming a better and more accurate quarterback.

A Balance Between Conservative and Aggressive

Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

Allen’s reputation for loving to throw the deep ball has been mentioned several times but for good reason. He’s got an absolute cannon of an arm and loves to utilize it. But, this was likely a contributor to his poor inaccuracy. This season, Allen has found a nice balance between taking deep shots and checking it down when he needs to.

Here’s a great example of Allen’s improved deep ball accuracy:


Yes, he could’ve checked it down to Tyler Kroft, but he saw Brown deep and nailed him in stride. There have been times where Allen has preferred to simply checkdown, such as the play in Week 1 where he got a big gain inside the red zone due to a play where he checked down to Dawson Knox. Devin Singletary has also been a big part of their passing attack out of the backfield and doesn’t have a particularly high yards per catch.

In addition, Allen’s intended air yards per pass attempt is down, as he went from 6th last year to 10th this year. Allen has become much more conservative with the ball, but at the same time, he’s still throwing the deep ball to guys like Diggs and Brown which has helped the Bills offense become less predictable. It’s made for an efficient offense, and it’s helped Allen improve across the board.

Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP

Allen has been nothing short of sensational in this NFL season. The upcoming weeks will be a big test for the rising star. I said in an article a while back that he was a dark horse for MVP this season, but even I didn’t think he would become this good. The Bills are currently sitting at 3-0 atop the AFC East. If he continues to play the way he is now, don’t be shocked if he’s holding an MVP trophy at the end of the year.

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