In three years, Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane has given a young, aspiring, franchise quarterback everything he could ever ask for. Beane has built a roster that, to my eyes, doesn't have a single glaring hole.
It looks like a Super Bowl caliber roster, but can Josh Allen be a Super Bowl caliber quarterback?
In 2018, Allen's rookie season, there were plenty of solid excuses why he didn't fly right out as a first-year starter like Patrick Mahomes, for instance, did with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bills had one of the worst offensive lines in football, a slow as molasses group of receivers, an aged staple of running backs behind him, and an overpaid tight end who couldn't catch any tough pass that came his way. For having no help, Allen did pretty well.
In 2019, Allen had an improved supporting cast. A much improved offensive line with additions like Quinton Spain, Cody Ford, Ty Nsekhe, Mitch Morse, etc. A respectable group of weapons to throw to led by John Brown, Cole Beasley, and Dawson Knox. A dynamic young running back in Devin Singletary, who could take any dump off for a big gain. A defense that was one of the best in football, allowing Allen to win games without almost ever having to score 30 points.
There was still one gaping hole the Bills have had. Allen hasn't had a true No. 1 receiver.
Against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 14, down to his final play and an all-out blitz coming his way, Allen needed to get the ball out. That ball was a contested pass to a heavily covered Brown. Not ideal.
In New England against the Patriots in Week 16, again, down to his final play and the pressure coming, Allen needed to get the ball out. That ball was a jump ball in the end zone to a 5-foot-8 Beasley. Not ideal.
In the playoffs against the Houston Texans, Duke Williams, who spent much of the year inactive or on the practice squad, saw 10 targets in the most important game of the season.
Now, the excuse of not having a No. 1 receiver is off the table.
Stefon Diggs is one of the best wideouts in the NFL. He's, arguably, the best route runner in the sport, has the speed to burn any defensive back deep, and has the size and strength of hands to wrestle away 50-50 balls. A first round pick-plus is a lot to give up, but Diggs is exactly the player the Bills needed. Not to mention, he's 26-years-old and on an incredibly reasonable contract for four more years.
It's now time for Allen to step up big time. No more talking about development.
He's got 28 games under his belt, a taste of the playoffs, the same offensive coordinator and coaching staff for three years, and a supporting cast of players that any young quarterback would be lucky to have.
Allen has to be great this season.
The biggest thing Allen struggled with in 2019 was his deep ball. Diggs was one of the best vertical threats in the game last season, compiling 1,130 yards on just 63 receptions. His average distance per-target was 12 yards. Easily the highest of his career. If Allen can't complete passes deep to the likes of Diggs and Brown, he never will.
With the Patriots, at the least, being a huge question mark going into 2020, the AFC East is up for grabs. The Bills could very well be the favorites once the regular season gets closer.
There are two kingpins at the top of the AFC: Mahomes and the Chiefs, as well as Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. Beane and head coach Sean McDermott have given Allen the tools to join those two on top of the conference.
Turn the pressure up to 11.
With success comes increased expectations. For Allen and the Bills in 2019, it was playoffs. They succeeded. Now it's time to raise the bar again.
Hopefully 2020 brings playoff wins, a division crown, and serious AFC contention. If the Bills are not in the conversation to win the AFC and it's because of Allen's inconsistences, they need to start thinking about a new quarterback.
It's one thing to waste years on quarterbacks when you're bad and trying to get out of the basement. It's another to waste years when you have a roster built to win. I'm not quite at seeing if Cam Newton wants to come be insurance as a backup, but I'm not too far off.
The year 2020 is huge for Allen. If he doesn't step up, there needs to be a conversation about acquiring a quarterback that can capitalize on the great roster around him.
Simply put, if Allen can't get the Bills to contention with the Chiefs and Ravens, call the Detroit Lions about Matthew Stafford. See if Dak Prescott can't get a deal done with the Dallas Cowboys still.
Do something that can get this team closer to the Super Bowl, because the Bills are a legit quarterback away from being in that discussion.