Bills’ QB Josh Allen has thrown an INT in five-straight games and is coming off an ugly primetime dud where he threw two costly picks that led to the Broncos’ 24-22 win. Allen now leads the NFL with 11 interceptions and there’s been significant fallout from his awful performance.
Trevon Diggs, the brother of Bills’ star receiver Stefon Diggs, tweeted that his brother needs to leave Buffalo and the Bills fired offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey. The Bills now sit at 5-5 outside the playoff picture with a tough schedule ahead and, despite finishing 3rd in MVP voting last season, Allen’s MVP odds have dropped to +3500 and even that number has no value. The Bills, a preseason favorite to win it all, now sit at +3000 to win the Super Bowl.
There have been a lot of theories about Allen’s struggles this year, and today I’m putting on my fact checker hat and analyzing each of them.
Buffalo receivers are to blame
One of Allen’s INTs on Monday was ugly and the other wasn’t his fault at all. Allen’s first INT was perfectly thrown and off the hands of WR Gave Davis and into the arms of a Broncos defender. So, is Buffalo’s receiving corps to blame for Allen’s struggles?
So far this season, according to PFF.com, Josh Allen’s receivers have dropped 4.7% of passes. For context, Allen’s receivers had a 8.7% drop rate in 2022, a 6.2% drop rate in 2021 and a 5.9% drop rate in 2020. In Allen’s worst game of the season (Week 1 vs. Jets) Allen threw 3 INTs when his receivers dropped only one pass (3.3% drop rate).
Allen’s receivers are dropping passes at a much lower rate this year than in past seasons, and while it’s possible his receivers are hurting him in other ways (poor route running, etc.) there’s no evidence of that with a veteran group of pass catchers.
It’s Ken Dorsey’s fault
This theory is apparently one believed by those in the front office, as Dorsey was relieved of his job duties shortly after the Bills’ embarrassing loss.
There are some big differences between the play calling this season compared to last season. The Bills threw the ball 59.44% of the time under Dorsey in 2022 and so far this season they’re throwing it 58.83% of the time. That difference in negligible, but the difference in the type of passes are not. Last season, Allen was running play-action passes 9.06 times per game and this year he’s only running play-action 6.5 times per game. Play-action passes can create extra separation between receivers and the defenders who often bite on play fakes.
Another big play calling difference this year is the lack of designed QB runs. If you’re a player prop bettor, you may have noticed this already. Last season, Allen averaged 4.2 designed runs per game and this season his number was only called 2.0 times per game. The designed runs were a lot more effective last season too, averaging 3.43 yards per carry while they’re only averaging 2.4 yards per carry this year.
It’s tough to put the blame squarely on Dorsey for the lack of designed runs because it’s possible outside factors out of his control (An unreported Allen injury or an edict from bosses to keep him healthy) led to the changes.
Verdict: PARTIALLY TRUE
Blame the offensive line
This season Allen has been under pressure about as often (18.2%) as last season (17.4%) and way less than in 2021 (25.7%). The Bills offensive line is a top-10 unit and actually had the 8th best pass blocking rate this week according to PFF.com, but Allen still struggled. Spencer Brown and Dion Dawkins are one of the better tackle tandems in the NFL.
Josh Allen has regressed
While Allen has been under pressure as often as last season, he’s been less effective with his feet when he’s taken off.
On scrambles (non-designed QB runs), Allen is averaging 6.9 yards per carry this season and last year he averaged 9.3 yards after averaging 8.8 yards per carry in 2021. There’s no question Allen is running less often and is less effective when running, but it’s possible defensive game plans are the reason, rather than an Allen regression.
PFF.com tracks “Turnover Worthy Plays” (TWPs) and this season Allen has actually improved dramatically in that category. Allen’s TWP% last season was 4.2% and he entered 2023 with a 3.7% TWP rate. So far in 2023, Allen’s TWP% rate is just 2.4%.
Verdict: MOSTLY FALSE