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Opinion: The inevitable step-back game won’t hijack Josh Allen’s progress with Buffalo Bills

Progress isn’t linear

Through three games, Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen is on pace to account for almost 6000 total yards and score 64 touchdowns in 2020.

If you expect him to achieve those numbers, you can stop reading this now. But if you understand the difficulty in any quarterback reaching those figures, I have a few thoughts to share...

For those of us who see regression (the size of which is to be determined) coming, it’s important to not get taken for a ride on the emotional roller coaster that sometimes is fandom. The regression necessary to offset what has been a historic start for Josh Allen appears highly improbable. The chances of us looking back at 2020 as a whole and thinking Allen failed to improve overall seems almost inconceivable. The question is more about HOW MUCH improvement the total average in 2020 will be to the total average in 2019, and less about whether or not the improvement will occur.

For Josh Allen, the ratio of “plays an average quarterback wouldn’t likely make” to “plays an average quarterback wouldn’t likely miss” has always been part of the experience. He might fight off three linebackers to make a throw. He might lateral the ball at the line of scrimmage in the fourth quarter in the red zone. Seeing the ratio of those plays shift in favor of the team overall is part of his growth thus far in 2020. A game where that ratio doesn’t favor the team doesn’t undo the positive steps seen from Allen thus far in 2020.

During Lamar Jackson’s MVP campaign in 2019, he played a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers where he threw for three interceptions, completed less than 55% of his passes, took five sacks and had an adjusted net-yards-per-attempt-figure below two. Against Seattle, he was 9-of-20 throwing the football. Patrick Mahomes’s 2018 MVP season had a bump in the road as well, throwing for two interceptions and zero touchdowns against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

We should be measuring regression the same way we measure improvement: by how long it lasts and how much above or below the previous mean it is. We should not simply see regression as a binary that either exists or doesn’t because it will exist. MVP campaigns have it, franchise quarterbacks have it, and Josh Allen will have it. When that regression game comes for Allen as it does for everyone, it will just be a single data point in a trajectory of improvement that nobody ever promised you would be linear.

...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” podcast every Thursday and Friday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!