(This is the first of a two-part series with Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll from a Zoom conference call with the team media last Friday.)
Brian Daboll knows the reality.
Starting his third season as the Bills offensive coordinator, the team has traded for an elite wide receiver, Stefon Diggs, and drafted an exciting young power back, Zack Moss.
But Buffalo’s fate, heading into the 2020 season, whatever form it takes, is literally in the hands of quarterback Josh Allen.
Through his first two seasons, after being the No. 7 overall selection in the 2018 draft, reviews have been mixed.
He’s started 27 times and gone 15-12 in those games, 10-6 last season leading Buffalo to a second NFL playoff appearance in three years. Allen improved his touchdown/interception ratio from 10/12 as a rookie to 20/9 in 2019.
In addition, Allen, at 6-foot-5, 237 pounds, proved to be a surprisingly effective runner. Over two seasons, he’s rushed for more than 1,100 yards – nearly six per carry – and scored 17 touchdowns on the ground, a team-leading nine last season.
However, he continues to be nagged by two problems: accuracy and flawed decision-making, specifically taking care of the football.
Allen improved his completion percentage by six points a year ago (52.8 to 58.8), but that latter figure was still the worst among QBs who played at least 10 games. And, in two years, he’s fumbled 22 times, with Buffalo recovering six of them.
Thus, over his pro career, Allen has accounted for 47 touchdowns (passing and running) and 37 turnovers (interceptions and lost fumbles).
That’s why this season is so important.
THUS, ALLEN’S progress was a main focus of Daboll’s Zoom interview with the team media last Friday.
“Josh I know has been working just like he always does in the offseason,” the former offensive coordinator of the Browns, Dolphins and Chiefs said. “He’s in his third year in the system. So he probably knows a lot more than he knew at the beginning.
“Everybody is behind based on the circumstances we’re in in terms of on-field work, technique work and chemistry work. There’s no substitute for that, but we really don’t focus on that, because it doesn’t do us any good on the things that we can’t control.”
Of Allen, specifically, Daboll said, “He’s our quarterback, but you can’t force leadership. You can improve it. You can learn about it. You can grow from it. But Josh has innate leadership qualities that guys gravitate towards, and he understands his role on the team ... being one of the guys, being there for the players around him, helping them with the system, getting them together so that you can build that team chemistry, (it’s) not all about football.”
Toward that end, Allen gathered the offense’s skill position players for a training session in South Florida.
“It was a really encouraging sign to see Josh along with some of the other guys get things together to go down there and throw some routes,” Daboll said. “I thought that it was good for them to get together. It wasn’t just football stuff. They did a lot of other things. Team building is always important. We’re only talking about a couple days, but it was good. I know they enjoyed it and they got some stuff out of it.”
STILL, IN THIS critical season for the former Wyoming star, the repercussions from the COVID-19 pandemic have been particularly punitive.
“Practice is always important … it’s the most important thing we do because you’re able to see guys execute the stuff that you (teach) in the classroom, and that’s really where the game is played,” Daboll said. “You’re going to have to do a good job, but I’d say even more this year, during training camp, on being ready to adapt and adjust in a very quick manner.
“There might be something that you thought was a good thing to install, and you get out there and it just doesn’t look great ... missing all those reps and muscle memory, familiarity with things and body language between a quarterback and a receiver.”
He admitted, “We’re going to be looking to hit the ground running and making adjustments the way we need to make them, but the installation schedule is going to be critical. The ability to adjust and adapt during that time is going to be really quick because, god willing, the season is going to be on us quick.
“We would love to have all of our players out there on the field working together and improving their techniques and fundamentals and implementing schemes and seeing how they take it from the classroom to the field. It’s gonna be important from the players end to where they are physically to the coaches end in terms of the installation schedule and things you want to put together. We’ll be prepared … we’ll be ready to go when training camp hits.”
(Tomorrow: assessing the offense.)
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at email@example.com)