Josh Allen is a playmaker.
It’s one of the reasons Bills Mafia gravitated towards him even as he dealt with growing pains while a rookie and second-year player. The flashes of brilliance he displayed arose out of that trait: he’s a playmaker. “Playmaker” is a term more and more often used to describe quarterbacks in the modern NFL, with “distributors” or “point guards” being viewed in more and more of a negative light with each passing year. When quarterback-needy teams are scouting the incoming crop of signal-calling prospects, the lack of playmaking ability is now viewed as a negative whereas before, the ability to create something outside of the normal structure of the offense was viewed as superfluous or even detrimental.
But with that label comes an added factor that can contribute to bring pressures upon yourself (in the pass-rush sense, not just the weight of expectations). That’s because the average time to throw of “playmakers” has a tendency to be markedly higher on average than that of their fellow non-playmaking quarterbacks. A quick glance around the average-time-to-throw charts from Pro Football Focus any given year can reveal this. The top five quarterbacks list in quickest time to throw since Allen became the Buffalo Bills’ starting QB in 2018 includes names like Nick Foles, Ben Roethlisberger, Derek Carr, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Phillip Rivers, Eli Manning, Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, and Jimmy Garoppolo. All of whom can be, are, or have been reasonable to great quarterbacks in the league, but none of whom would be classified as a “playmaker.”
But Patrick Mahomes has ranked 21st, 42nd, and 43rd in average time to throw amongst NFL QBs with at least 50 dropbacks each of the last three years per PFF. Justin Herbert has placed 25th, 29th, and 24th. Lamar Jackson? 30th, 51st, and 51st. Allen’s ranks for 2020 and 2021 were 48th and 44th. But in 2022, under new offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, Allen has lept all the way to 14th in the NFL in average time to throw, currently sitting at 2.62 seconds.
His career arc in average time to throw:
- 2018 - 3.20 seconds
- 2019 - 2.94 seconds
- 2020 - 3.04 seconds
- 2021 - 2.89 seconds
Even as it’s slowly dipped down, the significant drop from last year to this one couldn’t come at a better time for the Bills. The constant dance between defense and offense is cyclical in the NFL, and after teams spent the early to mid 2010s trying to replicate Gus Bradley and the Seattle Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” Cover-3 system before realizing that not having multiple All-Pros in the defensive backfield can leave you vulnerable to getting demolished from consistent deep over routes, modern defenses are playing consistent two-high looks against good offenses to minimize explosive plays down the field. Quarterbacks are being forced to quickly identify whether or not the play unfolding in front of them will be an opportunity for a big play or not, and if not they need to find the open man underneath before the defense can collapse on them and minimize yards after the catch. After years of talking about how the Bills lacked yards after catch as a team, they currently rank fourth in the NFL with 445 yards after catch. Ball placement is a big factor in obtaining yards after the catch, but time to throw remains an underrated contributor as well.
So with Allen getting the ball out faster and the Bills getting more damage done from their receiving targets once the ball is in their hands, Buffalo’s offense is well-positioned to deal with the defenses that currently populate the league and the way they will likely continue to be played by many teams.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!