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Bills 2020 Outlook: Can Josh Allen Take a Step Up?

Bills 2020 Outlook: Can Josh Allen Take a Step Up?

In 2019, the Bills claimed the fifth seed with a 10-6 record. Unfortunately, they lost in the first round to the Texans in a 22-19 overtime nail-biter. The Bills were a strong team, but very one-dimensional. They allowed the second-fewest points in the entire NFL, with a defense that was elite on every level. But, they had the fewest points scored of any playoff team by 62 points, or almost four points per game.

Because of this, Josh Allen was the target of much criticism, and rightfully so. Though he significantly improved from his horrendous rookie season, he still has a ways to go before he can lead a team to a deep playoff run. Allen ranked ninth-to-last in EPA/play, seventh-to-last in Y/A, and fifth-to-last in CPOE among qualifying quarterbacks in 2019. He was the lowest-ranked of any playoff quarterback in each of these categories. For the Bills to have a better 2020, Allen must take a leap forward.

Off-season Moves

Bills 2020 Outlook: Can Josh Allen Take a Step Up
Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings star receiver for the past five years, is now a Bill. Image courtesy of Getty Images.

The Bills mostly kept the same roster as 2019, with one major exception. The Bills traded four draft picks to acquire Diggs, one of which was their 2020 first-round pick. Diggs is a great new weapon for Allen’s cannon of an arm. He became a deep-ball weapon in 2019, ranking fourth in yards per catch and second in yards per target. He also has what it takes to be a number one option, as he had 41.27 percent of all of the Vikings air yards last season, third among all receivers. This slots in very well with Allen’s 9.4 intended air yards per attempt, fourth in the league. With perpetually-underrated receiver John Brown alongside him, Diggs and the Bills offense should be a handful for any defense. But only if Allen is up to the task.

Consistent Performance

Other than Allen, the Bills don’t seem like a team full of surprises. Again, with such a similar roster, the team should function at a very high level, as it did last season. The Bills are one of four teams that rank in the top 10 in both pass block win rate and pass rush win rate. Unfortunately, even with the impressive offensive line performance, Allen took 2.5 sacks per game, showing a lack of pocket awareness.

Along the defensive line, Ed Oliver was incredible. He was tied for the sixth-highest pass rush win rate among all defensive tackles. As far as their defensive back personnel, Buffalo showcases one of the best in the NFL. The group was headlined by Tre’Davious White, who was in the running for Defensive Player of the Year last season. But, some other underappreciated pieces around him include Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. Hyde quietly led Bills’ defenders in PFF grade, mainly carried by his amazing coverage abilities.

AFC East: Up For Grabs?

Bills 2020 Outlook: Can Josh Allen Take a Step Up?
Despite being 15th in MVP voting, Allen has yet to show signs of being able to play at a high level with consistency. Image courtesy of David Dermer, Associated Press.

For the first time since Tom Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe, the AFC East is not a one-team division. Buffalo proved their potency last season, and they have a chance to bump it up a notch in 2020, especially with the addition of Stefon Diggs. This roster will almost certainly find themselves in the postseason. However, their success once they get there will heavily hinge on a quarterback who, unlike the rest of the team, can be very inconsistent. Allen is in a similar position to Baker Mayfield this season – both quarterbacks have weapons, and both rosters are postseason ready. But, while the two quarterbacks have shown flashes of brilliance, they have failed to sustain it. And this year, they are out of excuses. If neither team manages to win its division, the Browns and Bills might be vying for the same wild card spot. Can Allen take considerable strides so the Bills can win the AFC East outright and avoid this situation? Though he will definitely provide some highlight-reel plays, it is doubtful that Allen will be able to take the Bills far in the playoffs. He simply has yet to develop the quarterback IQ and skill set that is necessary.

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