No more joshing around for Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills weren't kidding when they believed they found an answer at quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft, and now you're starting to see why they felt the Wyoming Cowboy was a franchise passer. The big-framed, big-armed quarterback had all the physical traits coming out of college, and in his third season has started to put it all together.
There were arguments to be made for each quarterback selected in that 2018 first round to go No. 1 overall, with the Browns even rumored to be interested in selecting Josh Allen with pick 1.01 that season. That didn't happen, but it wasn't long until Allen was drafted, with the Bills trading up to select him at No. 7 overall in 2018.
The move raised some eyebrows, especially when you consider his very difficult rookie year that coupled with an up-and-down 2019 season that mainly showcased a lot of Allen's inconsistences and cast some doubt on him as an elite quarterback. While there were flashes of good quarterback play, Allen has worked his way from run-first dynamo to legitimate passing threat.
Now, Josh Allen is among league leaders in touchdowns, yards and yards per game, and his hot start to the 2020 season has many NFL fans asking one question: What happened to the Josh Allen who sucked the last few years?
While Allen is still a long way away from shedding his reputation as an inconsistent passer, if he continues to evolve and improve underneath Sean McDermott, these are the big reasons why:
John Brown, Cole Beasley signings
Step 1 in building around a young quarterback is to … build around him.
While the Bills didn't have the most complete or impressive team on offense when Allen was drafted — Robert Forster and Kelvin Benjamin were Allen's primary receivers in 2018 — general manager Brandon Beane has done a ton to provide support to his franchise passer. That was most apparent with Beane's plan for the 2019 offseason.
First, Beane signed deep-threat wide receiver John Brown, hailed for his downfield speed but has routinely been injured throughout his career. Beane followed up the Brown signing by picking up slot receiver Cole Beasley, who had made a career of being a safety valve and possession receiver for Tony Romo and Dak Prescott with the Cowboys in years past.
Both players offered something different: Brown gave Allen and the Bills offense a major speed element to pair with Ruben Forster, while Beasley fit seamlessly into that mid-range target that Allen used well.
Brown made good on his signing, erupting for his first 1,000-yard season since his sophomore year with the Cardinals in 2015, coming up just one touchdown shy (six) of matching a career high. Beasley also proved to be an excellent acquisition, amassing 778 yards over 15 games and setting a career high in touchdowns in the process.
Stefon Diggs trade
Arguably the most important move that has helped take Allen's game to the next level is the trade that brought Stefon Diggs to Buffalo, adding a de facto No. 1 receiver to the Bills wide receiver corps.
The relationship between Diggs and the Vikings soured in 2019, leading to Diggs and a seventh-round pick being dealt to the Bills for their 2020 first-, fifth- and sixth-round picks, in addition to a 2021 fourth-round pick.
That may seem a lot on its surface, but the chemistry between Diggs and Allen has been exceptional to this point, making Beane look like a trade genius: Diggs is currently on pace for a 1,500-yard season, could tie his career-high in touchdowns, and at 14.1 yards per reception, he's currently notched the second highest mark of his career to this point, trailing just last years 17.9 yards per catch in Minnesota.
Diggs has fit seamlessly with a wide receiver group that features Brown, Beasley and 2020 draft pick Gabriel Davis. The group has really helped offensive coordinator Brian Daboll adapt to Allen's strengths a bit more, opening up the offense a bit more for more aggressive playcalling that makes better use of Allen's arm all — and his eclectic group of wide receivers have played a big part in it.
Offensive line shakeup
The Bills have also done a tremendous job identifying the offensive line as a weak point, and getting new bodies in there to try and fix up the situation. While the 2019 to 2020 group is largely the same with a few new names — former Jet Brian Winters and former Panther Daryl Williams fortify the right side in 2020 — offensive line continuity is very important to helping a quarterback. Another big addition along the offensive line has been 2019 second-round pick Cody Ford, who has offered the Bills a lot of versatility at both the tackle and guard positions.
Football games being won in the trenches is more than just a cliché, and the Bills front office has understood that. While there's still work to be done among the front, Allen seems much more poised behind the offensive line this year than in years past, not looking to escape and hanging in there to make tough throws on contact. That makes a pretty compelling formula and a scary sight for Bills opponents the rest of the season.