The Buffalo Bills have had 91 players come and go from their roster over the last 91 days. For the first time since I started writing this series, we’ve actually done the exact number of profiles that the title would suggest (of course, now that I’ve written this, I’m sure that I’ll wake up to see that the Bills have signed and released a few new players).
While some of those players have already been released (sorry Antonio Williams, Spencer Long, Garrett Taylor, and others), and many won’t make Buffalo’s final roster, we’ve spent plenty of time discussing the players who, with any luck, will make this season the best Buffalo has had in quite some time.
We haven’t discussed the most important player on the roster, however. We could talk all day about how adding Zack Moss should improve the running game, or how Stefon Diggs will make everyone’s life better, or how the unbelievable defensive line depth the team has should be a nightmare for opposing offenses. One fact remains, and it’s true for any NFL team: As the quarterback goes, so will the Bills.
In our final installment of “91 players in 91 days,” we profile the man whose Howitzer-grade shoulder bears the most weight in carrying Buffalo to greater heights than they’ve seen in a generation.
Name: Josh Allen
Height/Weight: 6’5”, 237 lbs
Age: 24 (25 on 5/21/2021)
Experience/Draft: 3; selected by Buffalo in the first round (No. 7 overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft
Acquired: First-round draft choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Allen enters the third year of his rookie contract, a fully guaranteed pact worth a total of $21,183,038. For the 2020 season, Allen carries a cap hit of $5,867,191.
2019 Recap: Allen made big strides in his second season, and what was particularly encouraging was his growth as the year progressed. Through the season’s first month, Allen looked scarily similar to the inconsistent rookie we’d seen in 2018. While his completion rate was up (60.3% through those four games), he was careless with the football, having thrown six interceptions and fumbled five times in only a month. From that point forward, Allen was a different player, as he finished the year by throwing 17 touchdowns against only three interceptions over his final 330 passing attempts. He still fumbled far too often, as he put the ball on the ground nine times over his last 12 games, but the improvements were impossible to miss. Overall, Allen finished the year with a better completion percentage (58.8% in 2019 compared to 52.8% in 2018), more passing yards (3,089 to 2,074), more passing touchdowns (20 to 10), fewer interceptions (9 to 12), more yards per game (193.1 to 172.8), more yards per attempt (6.7 to 6.5) and a better passer rating (85.3 to 67.9) than his rookie season. Allen also ran for 510 yards and nine touchdowns on the season, though he fumbled 14 times. In Buffalo’s playoff loss to the Houston Texans, he made some great plays (catching a touchdown pass for Buffalo’s only score, running for 42 yards on his first carry, hitting Duke Williams in the hands in the end zone at the end of the first half) and some horrendous ones (that lateral, the DiMarco Hail Mary, the Bradley Roby stare-downs) that negatively colored what was an otherwise promising season.
Positional outlook: Allen is the man once again, with Matt Barkley slated to remain his backup. Rookie Jake Fromm joins Davis Webb as a potential third quarterback on the roster.
2020 Offseason: Allen worked out with his teammates at various points throughout the offseason, and he also remained quarantined early in the COVID-19 shutdown with Jordan Palmer, Sam Darnold, and Kyle Allen.
2020 Season outlook: Buffalo has added weapons, giving Allen Stefon Diggs and Zack Moss to go with Cole Beasley, John Brown, Devin Singletary, and Dawson Knox to form a formidable “11” personnel grouping. Buffalo has solidified the offensive line, maintaining the same group from last year (although starting right guard Jon Feliciano’s torn pectoral means that the team won’t begin the season by starting that same group, with veteran Brian Winters expected to hold down the fort until Feliciano returns). The Bills still have one of the NFL’s elite defenses, as they return all but one full-time starter from that unit and they replaced the part-timers with plenty of additional talent.
The Bills will go as far as their young quarterback will take them. Can Allen tame those “hero-ball” tendencies that look heroic when they work and mind-numbingly stupid when they don’t? I’d be willing to bet that plenty of Green Bay Packers fans wanted Brett Favre to do the same after the 1993 season, his second year as a starter, when he led the league in interceptions with 24 and fumbled 14 times. Am I saying that Allen will be Favre? Man, I hope so...but I’m not. What I do mean is that, sometimes, you have to take the good with the bad with a gunslinger, and part of what’s taken Allen as far as he’s come is the mentality that, no, he isn’t going to slide, he’s going to leap over a linebacker. And no, he isn’t going to check down, he’s going to fire the damn ball as hard as he can at his guy and hope he makes a play. There will be turnovers. There will be plays where I try really hard not to say words that my six-year old will repeat in class that lead to some phone calls from his teacher and death stares from my wife. But if Allen can use his improved supporting cast to his advantage while continuing to show the kind of growth that he did last season, then the Bills have a top-three team in the AFC. If you add an elite quarterback to an elite defense, we could be saying a whole lot of things we’ve never said before about the Bills before long.
Thank you all for journeying through the roster with us—go Bills!