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Josh Allen UCL sprain: Pre- and post-injury 2022 splits

How much did that elbow injury change his game?

NFL: NOV 06 Bills at Jets Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills started the 2022 season off hot. They crushed their first two opponents with a scoring margin of 72-17. The team withered in the Florida sun, but then stacked another four wins convincingly.

Ultimately, the season sadly ended with a whimper — and lots of questions. Sure, things didn’t end how we wanted them to, but in the team’s defense, you’d be hard-pressed to find a year with this much adversity.

Today, we’ll take a look at how one such hardship may have impacted the team’s fortune. Namely: Was Allen’s UCL injury a key factor in the team’s second-half woes?

Let’s set the stage. The 6-1 Bills had traveled to New Jersey to take on the 5-3 New York Jets in a competitive AFC East. Down by three with the game coming to an end, Buffalo had the ball on their own 33-yard line. Needing roughly 30-35 yards to get into Tyler Bass’ field goal range to force overtime (or 67 yards for the win), Bills Mafia had reason for hope. It was 2nd & 2, and despite the lack of timeouts, the Bills still had 1:20 on the clock.

Allen dropped back and was sacked. Even worse, he lost the ball. While Ryan Bates recovered it, the Bills were now faced with 3rd & 21. No problem! Allen had two tries to get the first.

He also now had a UCL sprain. The next pass definitely looked affected by the throw. The final pass of the game looked good, but the Jets played it better. With the loss in the books, the Bills were left wondering how much that injury might hurt their season.

That’s a lot of intro, and maybe I’m overselling things a bit. That’s because this chart is going to make things real clear, real quick. From there, I just don’t know how much more article I’ll really need.

Some quick methodology notes:

  • These numbers include postseason, which is why they look different than you might find in some places.
  • I added the two passes (both incomplete) after the injury in Week 9 into the “After injury” stats.
  • When it comes to the per-game stats, those two passes are calculated into the latter 10 games rather than the former eight.

I think the chart does a lot of the heavy lifting here, but I have some thoughts, of course. Completion percentage isn’t a big shift in how it looks. If you were slotting these as hypothetical new quarterbacks into the rankings, though, the 64.5% rate would be 21st in the league, compared to 27th for the 61.4% rate.

Yards per game is a drastic change, but the next two columns are way more important for the deeper dive we all want on this topic. Allen’s attempts per game remained remarkably stable. That means two things: First, offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey didn’t ease Allen’s workload all that much, despite what appeared to be some very obvious struggles. Note that Allen tossed it 43 times the very next game. Second, this shows you how important that yards-per-attempt metric is.

Allen’s yards per attempt dropped an entire yard. How steep of a decline is that? The 8.1 yards per attempt would have tied Patrick Mahomes as second-best in the league. The 7.1 rate was a three-way tie for 15th in the league. It’s only one yard per attempt less, but’s it the difference between elite and average.

Remarkably, Allen’s interception rate was pretty stable. The touchdown rate, though? Well, I don’t think you’ll want to read that figure. Now, 5.4% for touchdowns is very respectable. It would have ended up placing sixth-best in the NFL. The 6.4%, though — where would that have landed? Best in the league.

In summary

I guess I had more to talk about than I thought I did, and here’s some more in case you’re still here. Most regulars know I’m not a big fan of per-game metrics, but I included the yards per game for a reason. It’s a symptom more than a cause, sort of like a fever. When we talk symptoms, severity is a major factor.

In those first eight games, Allen sat an entire quarter in Week 2, and about a sixth of the Week 5 game. The completion-percentage and yards-per-attempt decreases don’t jump right out, but consider that dip of roughly 50 yards per game in the context of Allen having sat early on 25% of the “pre-injury” games.

I have a simpler way of summarizing, perhaps. It’s no mystery why Allen was an early MVP favorite, and then fell out of that conversation. His production went from MVP to mediocre right around midseason.