For Bills' Josh Allen, better accuracy among Year 2 priorities

In the span of a year, Josh Allen progressed from leading the Buffalo Bills' third-team offense in organized team activities last May to now being the unquestioned starting quarterback, and -- as offensive coordinator Brian Daboll noted last week -- the face of the franchise.

There is no drama at quarterback this summer for the Bills, who will rise as high as Allen takes them in 2019. That will be a departure from training camp last year, when Allen's role was uncertain as he took part in a three-way competition with AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman.

"Allen [is] going with the [first-team offense], for the most part," Daboll said Tuesday. "I think that's very beneficial for him because he's taken reps with a lot of the guys that he'll be working with throughout the summer."

Though the Bills are rightfully pleased with Allen's development, his graduation to having a more settled spot on the depth chart and a more consistent starting cast does not guarantee he will take a step forward in his second season. Considerable improvement is needed before he can safely be labeled Buffalo's long-term starter at quarterback.

Here are three statistics in which Allen lagged last season and could measure how much of a step forward he takes this season:

  • Off-target throw percentage: As tracked by ESPN Stats & Information, Allen missed 23.7% of his passes, the highest rate of off-target throws in the NFL last season. That rate increased after his Week 12 return from an elbow injury, to a league-high 26.9% over the final six weeks of the regular season. The difficulty of Allen's throws likely played a part in his inaccuracy; he averaged 10.54 air yards per attempt, less than only Jameis Winston's mark of 10.69 last season as the most in the past 10 seasons among quarterbacks with at least 320 attempts in a season.

  • Average time before pass: Allen averaged 3.22 seconds before attempting his passes last season, the highest rate in the league among qualifying quarterbacks and second-highest in the past 10 seasons behind only Tim Tebow's 3.35 in 2011. The stat suggests an inability for Allen's receivers to get open but also a tendency for him to hold the ball in hopes of making a bigger play instead of taking what is given to him. As with his off-target throw percentage, Allen had a longer average time (3.27 seconds) before his passes after his Week 12 return.

  • Accuracy on shorter throws: The Bills this offseason signed former Dallas Cowboys slot receiver Cole Beasley to a four-year deal with $14.4 million guaranteed. Beasley averaged the ninth-fewest air yards per target (7.48) among NFL wide receivers last season. If Allen is to take advantage of Beasley's skill set, the QB must improve his accuracy on shorter passes. Allen completed only 65.2% of his passes averaging 7.48 air yards or fewer last season, 32nd in the NFL. That rate dropped to 64.8% after his Week 12 return. Only 3% of Allen's attempts in that range were dropped by his receivers last season, 10th-best in the NFL.

Accuracy was a priority for Allen this offseason.

"Consistently delivering the ball where it needs to be," he said last month. "That was a huge emphasis, we're still working [on] it."

Some of Allen's statistical struggles, including his inaccuracy, can be blamed in part on a deficient offensive line and depleted group of pass-catchers. General manager Brandon Beane attempted to fill the holes around Allen by signing 14 veteran free agents on offense and using three draft picks in the second and third rounds on offensive players.

In particular, here is a look at two statistical areas in which Allen's supporting cast failed him last season:

  • Drop rate by receivers: Although Allen's receivers were relatively sure-handed on shorter-range throws, the overall drop rate by his receivers was 4.1%, 10th-worst in the NFL for a quarterback. Among the 10 players with the highest drop rates for the Bills last season, five are no longer with the team -- running back Chris Ivory (14.3%), Terrelle Pryor (6.9%), Logan Thomas (5.6%), Deonte Thompson (3.3%) and Charles Clay (2.8%). However, new addition John Brown had the 16th-highest drop rate (5.2%) among all qualifying wide receivers last season.

  • Pass protection: The Bills overhauled their offensive line this offseason, signing six veteran free agents and drafting tackle Cody Ford in the second round. Their line last season finished 23rd in Football Outsiders' pass protection metric, which played a role in Allen having the 10th-worst sack per drop back rate (7.1%) in the league last season. However, it would be unfair to pin all of the sacks on Allen's line; according to ESPN Stats & Info, the Bills' offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage on 49.4% of Allen's dropbacks last season, which was above the league average of 48.9%.