What is the Buffalo Bills’ identity on offense? It’s a question I’ve answered a couple times on my podcast and it’s high time I put it in writing. Under offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, the Bills are a pass-first offense built around second-year quarterback Josh Allen, and Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns crystallized it.
That is foolish.
Josh Allen should not be passing the ball 41 times in a one-score game. On the final drive, when Buffalo was in their two-minute drill, he had seven of those passes. Even before that hurry-up drive, the Bills were skewed offensively. Just 14 carries by the running backs all game with four designed rushing attempts by Allen against 36 passing calls.
The Bills called pass twice as many times as they called run in the game.
It’s not like the run game was stagnant. Devin Singletary was averaging 5.3 yards per carry. So why did the rookie only get eight carries during a game in which the Bills were never down by more than six points?
On the season, the Bills have 300 passing attempts plus 23 sacks. It’s unclear how many scrambles by Allen were called passes, but it’s at least 323 pass plays so far in 2019. Comparatively, they’ve run the ball 246 times (again, with some of those being Allen scrambles on failed pass plays).
246 runs. 323 passes.
If 18 of those runs were on busted pass plays where Allen took off running, a number equal to two per game, the Bills are over 60/40 in terms of passing plays vs running plays. That’s simply not acceptable with the current iteration of Josh Allen and it’s unnecessary when your running backs are averaging 4.0 yards per carry (Frank Gore) and 6.4 yards per carry (Singletary). Even T.J. Yeldon is at 4.6 yards per carry and Isaiah McKenzie and Andre Roberts have added a combined 21 yards on five attempts (4.2 YPC). Heck, tight end Dawson Knox has a 9-yard jet sweep.
It’s no surprise that their most successful drive of Sunday’s game came using a mix of runs and pass. In the second quarter, they used five runs and three pass attempts to move the ball 76 yards. Runs of 9, 3, 12, 8, 2, and 10 were sprinkled in with a long incompletion to John Brown, a 12-yard catch and run by Dawson Knox, and a 20-yard pass to Robert Foster. Allen had the two longest runs of the drive. They only had one third down on the drive, and needed just two yards because they were consistently ahead of the sticks.
We need to stop asking the question “What is the Bills’ identity on offense?” after nine games. We need to start asking why their identity is so heavily skewed toward passing with a QB who isn’t ready for it.