“At the end of the day, I got a ton of trust in Josh Allen, a ton of trust in him,” offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey said. “In who he is and what he's about, and the type of player he is.”
After Allen committed four turnovers in Week 1's overtime loss to the New York Jets, the Bills have focused on learning from what went wrong while also trying to move on quickly from the tough performance.
As the Bills look to build on a 20-5 home record since 2020 (tied for the best with the Green Bay Packers during that span) in Sunday’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders (1 p.m. ET, CBS), there are key areas where they must show improvement.
“I think [Allen’s] his harshest critic and we, as a team, have the ultimate trust in him and respect in him, and he knows that, and so it's one of those things where we just got to dive into on a short week,” center Mitch Morse said. “There's sometimes blessings in that, right? Like we definitely take what we need to take from that experience and learn, but also now that we get to apply ourselves to a new week, understanding what did work for us on Sunday.”
Here's where they can start:
Not forcing the ball downfield: Allen prioritized making better decisions and not trying to force big plays coming into the season. But turnovers were part of the team's downfall against the Jets.
On passes of 15 or more air yards, Allen finished 4-of-9 for 71 yards and threw all three of his interceptions. He had more success underneath, completing 25 of 32 passes for 165 yards with a TD on passes under 15 air yards.
In the offseason, the Bills added receivers who could excel at yards after catch -- Deonte Harty and Trent Sherfield -- to take some pressure off Allen. Running back James Cook’s increased role should also help in that area. In Week 1, the Bills finished with 130 yards after catch (eighth) and averaged 4.48 yards after catch per reception (16th).
Giving receivers more opportunities will help Allen.
“We just gotta do a great job in our [YAC] and making guys miss and those things to create some of those explosives on some of the shorter passing games,” Dorsey said. “So, I think when you look at it, finding ways to strike that balance between some of that quick possession pass game and some of the intermediate stuff and downfield stuff, making sure we're balanced there, and not just one sided.”
Solidifying options outside Stefon Diggs: Diggs is obviously the team’s No. 1 wide receiver and that was reflected in the box score against the Jets, finishing with 10 receptions on 13 targets for 102 yards and one touchdown. But no other Bills pass-catcher had more than six targets and none had more than four receptions.
“I think it's really big,” coach Sean McDermott said on getting other pass-catchers involved. “Whether it's a wide receiver, tight end, back, whatever it is. We need that and probably didn't get it as much as we would have liked to yesterday. ... You want to make sure that Stef gets what he needs in terms of as the No. 1 receiver that he is for us, but spreading the ball around and other people becoming a viable option for us is also important for us.”
The offense relied too much on Diggs last season with opposing defenses planning to take him out of the game. Wide receiver Gabe Davis is in a contract year this season and is healthy after battling a high ankle sprain last season. But he had just two receptions on four targets against the Jets while playing 94% of the snaps -- in part due to his production as a blocker.
Rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid should be used more as the team introduces more "12" personnel (one RB, 2 TEs) to the offense this season. They ran 43 plays in 12 personnel against the Jets, the most by any team in the league (New York Giants were second with 27). Kincaid caught each of his four targets for 26 yards. Add in tight end Dawson Knox, Sherfield, Harty and Cook, and the Bills have plenty of playmakers to help around Allen.
“It just comes game to game, like if you get one-on-one matches or you get opportunities, cool,” Diggs said. “For me, I tell the guys ... if I'm getting doubled or I'm getting top-down coverage or I can attract some attention to get somebody else open, I'm all for it, so it's not so much a balance, it's just all about what the defense will give you. So, let's just take what they give us, and we can go from there.”
Being more productive on earlier downs: Of the Bills' 26 second-down offensive plays against the Jets, they needed 7 or more yards to gain a first on 16 of them. On third down, seven of 13 plays needed 7 or more yards for a first.
The Bills' offense gained an average of 3.1 yards on first downs in Week 1 -- tied for fifth fewest with the Arizona Cardinals.
“We classify it as first and second down, second-and-1 to -6, those are like green scenarios for us where it's everything's on the table,” Dorsey said. “You've got the ability to run your whole gambit. On those second-and-7-pluses, second-and-longs, third-and-longs -- those are red-type situations. Those are danger areas where the defense has at times a little bit more of an advantage.”
Two of Allen’s interceptions came on third down, while the other came in a second-and-long situation.
“Try not to be in those -- we call them red situations -- where it’s third-and-longer," Allen said of lessons to take from the Jets loss, "and ... understanding when to give up.”
The Bills' offense is eager to move forward following the Jets loss.
“You have to have the mental ability to reset and get yourself back as soon as possible,” McDermott said. “... I expect that Josh will reset in this case after a game like that, in particular second half and then come back better this week.”