Alaina GetzenbergESPN6 minute reading
BUFFALO, N.Y. — For the quarterback Josh Allen, part of the preparation for the upcoming season, has involved looking back.
Although the Buffalo Bills won 13 regular-season games last season, the offense finished with the third-most points per game. game (26.9) and Allen finished with the second-highest overall QBR (71.4), the offense was inconsistent in the second half. of the season and at times struggled. Allen led the league in turnovers (19) despite the team having one of its games canceled, and the Bills had the highest percentage of dropped passes (6.2%).
So part of the work he did this offseason was to look back at himself and break down why he does certain things on the football field.
“I’m thinking more, digging into what went wrong last year and understanding myself a little bit more like, ‘Why are my eyes starting here?'” Allen told ESPN when asked what he’s done differently this offseason while talking about being chosen for the cover of Madden 24. “And again, just being more in-depth about my whole process, whether it’s film work or studying myself one day after practice and just grieving for my feet to marry my eyes and my eyes start in the right place. I think that may have been the cause of some of the problems I’ve had in the past.”
To help fix some of the offense’s issues, Allen enters this season trying to fix what went wrong last year and with a new focus that has been noticed by teammates and coaches. Part of that is communicating more with second-year offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey and working with teammates on the intricacies of what the offense entails so they can be in sync.
All of this is with the goal of having a more consistent offense that is on the same page throughout the season.
“I just think Josh taking his game to another level really means being a big decision maker,” coach Sean McDermott said during OTAs. “We’ve talked about … adjusting his style of play enough to stay healthy and at times also play smart, smarter, and then I think just overall approach to the game.
“I’ve seen a different Josh in the offseason, not that it was bad before, but he’s got a new sense of focus, I’d say, and determination, which is good.”
In 2022, success on downfield throws wasn’t necessarily the issue. Allen improved his production on pass attempts of 15 or more air yards, including having the lowest percentage of interceptions on such passes of his career (3.7%). The quarterback threw the ball 15 or more air yards on a higher average per game in 2022 (8.4 pass attempts per game) than his previous career average (7.3) and had a significantly higher quarterback rating on those throws (92.2 in 2022, 78.6 from 2018 to 2021).
Allen’s struggles later in the season came in part because defenses became more familiar with what Dorsey was trying to do, and the quarterback tried to do more to save plays that broke down instead of taking smaller gains.
His completion percentage on long passes dropped from 52.2 in the first eight games to 46.3 in the last eight, while his touchdown-to-interception ratio on those throws went from 4.5 to 1.3. The offensive line also struggled at times as defenders contacted Allen more in the second half of the season (pressure: 26.1% in first six games, 31.9% in last 11) and played a role in Allen taking more rash decisions — something he’s trying to learn about.
“If my eyes start here, but I know it’s Cover 2 and I have my little stick route on the right side — [you] don’t go broke taking profits … just keep starting to take the little things and don’t get bored with it,” Allen said by way of example. “So just continue to refine my knowledge of the game and be as efficient as possible.
“And we talk a lot in our room — being aggressive but not conservative. So we try to be as efficient as possible but also take the big shots when they’re there and keep that explosiveness about our offense.”
Allen cited the entire quarterback room — backups Matt Barkley and Kyle Allen, quarterbacks coach Joe Brady and assistant quarterbacks/game management coach Marc Lubick — as well as Dorsey and other offensive position coaches for helping him grow this offseason.
“Coach puts this film on, it’s like, OK, why am I starting on the left side? I see it. I’m standing there and sometimes the game gets the best of you and you try to start doing too much,” said Allen. “So, it’s little things like that and … if I get off track and get a little too juicy, then I just get back into the rhythm of our offense and be an extension of coach Dorsey.”
Improving the offense goes beyond Allen’s play alone. An important part is keeping the entire offense communicated because that’s when it’s most effective.
Some of that extends to conversations he had with wide receiver Stefon Diggs, like when the wide receiver was dismissed by McDermott for the first minicamp practice, where the quarterback said there’s more he and the organization can do to get Diggs the ball and get him more involved in the game plan. It also means integrating the new offensive players and taking time to discuss the details.
The Bills brought new players to the offense this offseason, including first-round pick tight end Dalton Kincaid and wide receivers Trent Sherfield and Deonte Harty, to help production in the middle of the field and generate more yards after the catch after the team finished last season fourth -lowest YAC per reception (4.49).
“[Allen is being] more consciously with some of the new guys, just kind of bringing them to the side, as if [second team is] When he goes and Josh is done in that period, he can bring one of the receivers up next to him and kind of go through certain signals or certain calls that he might want to give up at the line of scrimmage,” the tight end said -than Dawson Knox. “Just kind of being more direct with some of the guys about the details.”
The first four years of Allen’s career were spent with Brian Daboll as his offensive coordinator, and much of the communication will come down to Allen and Dorsey, who was the Bills’ quarterbacks coach from 2019 to 2021, being on the same page. A year of experience under the belt should help with that.
“I think when you’re learning a new coordinator and new playcaller and things like that, there’s time to grow and develop,” Dorsey said. “And then I think the comfort level continues to grow, that communication. Because I’m the type, I love having that input.”
Additional reporting by ESPN’s Michael Rothstein.