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How big of a leap did Josh Allen take in 2019?

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We compare Josh Allen’s actual change compared to our predictive model constructed before the season

Back in May of 2019 I thought it would be fun to see what kind of a leap Buffalo Bills fans could expect from Josh Allen in year two. This was done by looking at the change in play across five metrics of all second-year quarterbacks in a ten-year span. From there, it was easy enough to look at the average amount of change as well as predict a normal “range.” I promised I’d come back to see how our model fared, so let’s take a look at the results.


Yards/Game

Just to clarify method a bit, using the sample size of second-year quarterbacks I calculated average change as noted. For this measure (yards per game) the average change was an improvement of 18.4 yards. These numbers were then added to Josh Allen’s 2018 totals to come up with our projections. Said differently, that means the projected average wasn’t a projection of “second-year QBs” it was a specific second-year Josh Allen prediction.

I point this out because, well...**** yeah! Bite me Mel Kiper! Stats are for WINNERS! The model’s perfect-average prediction for Allen was 191.2 yards per game. He ended the regular season at 193.1, or only 1.9 yards per game different than the model’s perfect-average prediction. The stats were pulled from the regular season but for fun let’s add in the 264-yard performance in the playoffs, which brings him to 197.3 yards per game. Still really dang close.

Yards/Attempt

Our sample group’s numbers results in a prediction of modest gain in this stat with the average improvement being a mere 0.1 yards per attempt. This was also a somewhat volatile number set with a fairly large range of what would be considered normal change. I’ll let you be the judge on how close the model matched the result.

Again, these are based on regular-season stats, but if you’re curious what his 5.74 yards per attempt in Houston did for the numbers it pulls him just low enough to make the perfect-average prediction perfectly accurate. At 6.64 yards per attempt and rounding to how we did in the chart...you get the idea.

Touchdown Percentage

This was another pretty volatile range of data. At 3.1% in 2018, the normal range included a steep drop to 1.7% all the way up to 6.2%. Once again, Allen stays close to the perfect average of the predictive model with 4.3% of his passes going for touchdowns. For the curious readers, his zero-touchdown performance in the playoffs combined with his high volume of throws (46) that day would drop him all the way to 3.9%.

The good news is that all of these stats are showing improvement. The predictive model had plenty of room for regression and to this point Josh Allen has avoided it. While these may not be the massive leaps we were hoping for they’re in the right direction to this point at least.

Interception Percentage

Without a doubt the last three results were personally exciting for me. There’s pleasure in “being right.” Specifically in this case, it validates all the effort that went into the project and that creates excitement to do the next one.

Back on track, this could be the best-case scenario for me. Allen threw an interception 3.8% of the time in 2018 and the model predicted a small drop to 3.4%. A lot of the other stats don’t need as large a jump with Allen’s mobility adding yards and touchdowns on the ground. So this is great news that Allen made a big jump, nearly cutting his rate in half. And because of the aside above, I still get to point out he’s within the expected amount of change.

Curious about the playoffs? Zero interceptions on 46 passes drops is a decent margin. All the way to 1.8%.

Completion Percentage

In actuality, this is the one that makes me the happiest to see. By going the extra step and creating a normal range of change in these stats there was always a good chance I’d be in the ballpark with Allen’s 2019 results. While I’ll admit I didn’t anticipate the first three being that spot on, I did expect most of the measurements to fall within the given range.

I know it wasn’t by much, but Josh Allen exceeded the top end of the predicted range by improving to 58.8% for completions. Adding in his playoff totals does drop it back into the predicted range, but remember that none of the quarterbacks in the sample had playoff games included so those stats are for novelty purposes only.


Summary

I didn’t include the rankings for most of these stats but I’ll address them now briefly. Without going into detail, Josh Allen still has his work cut out for him. The eye test was encouraging but the bottom line is that the Bills need more than 20 passing touchdowns from Allen. I’d be more inclined to give him a pass for his nine rushing touchdowns if it weren’t for the fact that our running backs collectively only had FOUR. That’s right, our running-back room collectively tied Andy Dalton in rushing touchdowns.

I’m not trying to end on a depressing note so here’s why you needed to know that. Josh Allen is currently being asked to be the entire scoring offense. That’s preposterous for any quarterback let alone a second-year player. I can point to areas of weakness for Allen but every one comes with a team problem. Josh Allen is improving and can continue to do so. If the team grows with him, maybe it will lead to something special.