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How Josh Allen used the 2021 offseason to make these improvements in his game

Josh Allen (17) Buffalo Bills Minicamp at Highmark Stadium, June 16, 2021. Photo by Sara Schmidle
Josh Allen (17) Buffalo Bills Minicamp at Highmark Stadium, June 16, 2021. Photo by Sara Schmidle

There aren't a lot of quarterbacks like Josh Allen. 

Since he's been in the league, he has taken each offseason to improve and grow as an NFL quarterback. And the work has been paying off. After having the best season of his career in 2020 - in which he finished second in MVP voting – Allen isn't content with what he has accomplished and knows he can do more. 

Last offseason, Allen's focus was on deep-ball accuracy and building chemistry with teammates to help strengthen that skill. This offseason, Allen will work on another area of his passing game to make him and the team better in 2021. 

"I think just working on in-breaking routes," Allen said. "That's something that maybe wasn't my strongest suit last year. With the deep ends and the short five-yard under, it is just making sure I'm putting it in a catchable spot for these guys to catch and run. That's going to be a huge asset for us to be able to hit those types of throws and allow our guys to stay up and stay on the move. I didn't do a good enough job with that last year, so I'm excited to continue to work on that."

For the past few seasons, former NFL quarterback and NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms has been ranking the top 40 quarterbacks in the league. After his rookie season in 2018, Allen was ranked No. 23 behind both Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold. In 2019, Simms moved Allen up five spots to No. 18. This offseason, Allen skyrocketed from No. 18 all the way to No. 2.

Simms has seen the progress that Allen has made after every season and that has been reflected in his rankings. For 2021, Allen is sandwiched in between Aaron Rodgers at three and Patrick Mahomes at one. On his podcast, Chris Simms Unbuttoned, Simms mentioned that figuring out the top three was difficult this year. He put Allen at two in his rankings because of the amount of game-saving impact plays he had on the field last season.

"I still think with him regardless and [Brian] Daboll, they're both so aggressive, Simms explained. "He's gonna make his plays and do his type of thing. So even if the numbers are less, it's gonna be about the importance of those plays. What kind of magnitude or what effect did they have on the game? And to me, that's where he's amazing. Allen and Mahomes clearly to me had the most game-changing effectiveness with throws and completions."

Allen's ability to make those game-changing throws is one of the reasons that the Bills lead the NFL in third-down conversion percentage (49.7%) last season. Allen has said in the past that he will do whatever he can to help his team get the win. Earlier in his career, playing 'hero ball' and trying to put the whole team on his back led to many mistakes for Allen. In 2020, Allen proved that he could limit those mistakes while also making some spectacular plays that helped the team win games. 

ESPN NFL analyst Mina Kimes noted on her podcast, The Mina Kimes Show featuring Lenny, that Allen limited his "YOLO" plays to about 10 percent last season which helped the Bills win total improve from 10-6 in 2019 to 13-3 in 2020. 

"Over the course of the season, there were just games where he was an absolute 'God-mode,'" Kimes said on her podcast. "But like every now and then it would spring up you'd be like, 'Nah, you should just check it down and throw it away' and he's gotten so much better at it that I don't want to harp on it, but it's so obviously the thing. Especially because, again mentally he's progressed so much as a quarterback that the risk-taking is now very calculated, I think. He takes the risk because he knows he has the arm to do it."

Allen's arm talent is one of the reasons that he was graded so high before he was drafted in 2018. Allen being paired up with one of the most creative offense coordinators in the league is one of the reasons for his success and development in the NFL. 

Allen has been fortunate enough to have the same coaching staff around him for his first four years in the NFL. As he has gotten more comfortable in the Bills offense the number of big plays downfield has increased. In his rookie season, Allen had 25 25+ yard completions which grew to 28 in 2019 and 34 in 2020. 

Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is excited for what Allen and the other playmakers can do in this Bills offense in 2021. Even with all the experiences Allen has gained, Daboll appreciates the fact that he still practices with the same energy he did as a rookie and that Allen has learned to put the past behind him.

"Each year you grow in the system," Daboll said. "I value his input and the things that he feels really comfortable with. He is really the same guy every day since he's been here. He has an underdog mentality. He's a grinder. He loves to practice. He's competitive in the meeting rooms. His leadership skills are outstanding. But he's not relying on what happened the year before or anything like that. That's what I appreciate about him. He's turned the page really quick. … He's humble, he's never satisfied. He's an underdog. That's what happens when you're not recruited and all of these types of things. That's just his mindset. I don't think that will ever go away."

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