ESPN questions Josh Allen's status as an 'elite quarterback' without Stefon Diggs

And so the narrative continues.
Dec 31, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) has a word with
Dec 31, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) has a word with / Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

There are genuine, justifiable concerns that one could theoretically have about the Buffalo Bills offense.

It’s natural to wonder if the team did enough to supplement the offseason departures of wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis, who combined for 1,929 receiving yards in the 2023 NFL season. It’s fair to doubt that the team will maintain its health and dominance across the offense line, especially given the loss of stalwart center Mitch Morse. It’s not even egregious to question the depth across the entire unit—if key players go down at really any position, does the team employ strong enough reinforcements to keep the proverbial machine well-oiled?

An example of an unjustifiable concern, however, would be any that questions the ability of quarterback Josh Allen and his status as one of the premier quarterbacks in professional football. Few in the sport have matched Allen’s excellence throughout the last four NFL seasons; sure, the signal-caller is still prone to the occasional bone-headed decision, but fans—and the Bills themselves—will put up with that when he’s passing for well over 4,000 yards and more than 30 touchdowns per season. Combine this with his rushing prowess (2,470 yards and 36 touchdowns since the 2020 NFL season), and you have a truly special player, a quarterback who is almost universally viewed as one of the best in the league.

And yet, some still question his ability.

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These questions have gotten a bit louder throughout the 2024 offseason, with many pundits questioning whether the 27-year-old will maintain his dominance sans Diggs, who helped Allen cement himself as one of the league’s premier passers throughout his four years with the team. Diggs caught 445 passes for 5,372 yards and 37 touchdowns throughout his four seasons with Allen as his quarterback, an impressive stat line that some feel the signal-caller may “self-destruct” without.

Even ESPN feels as though Allen may lose his status as one of the NFL’s premier players in the absence of Diggs; in a recent article breaking down one quarterback question for each team, reporter Dan Graziano asked if Allen would “still be an elite quarterback” without the wideout, citing Allen’s pre-and-post 2020 stats as basis for the argument.

“Diggs' arrival in Buffalo in 2020 coincided with Allen's ascension into the top tier of NFL quarterbacks,” Graziano wrote. “Allen posted QBR numbers of 49.8 and 49.4 in his first two seasons in the league, but in the four since then, he hasn't dipped below 66.3 . . . Expect Buffalo to lean on what it used in the final weeks of 2023, with running back James Cook and tight end Dalton Kincaid featured prominently. But what the Bills need is Allen to elevate his WR corps the way Patrick Mahomes did after Kansas City traded Tyreek Hill two years ago.”

It would be ignorant to imply that Diggs did not play a significant role in Allen evolving from a talented, but incredibly limited quarterback into a dynamic world-beather—he most certainly did. That said, to suggest that Allen will regress from his “elite” status sans the wideout is to imply that Allen is still fundamentally the same player he was before Diggs arrived and that the wideout was simply masking his flaws; this is far from the case.

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Allen is a completely different player than he was prior to Diggs’ arrival. He’s more refined, now possessing the finesse to pull off some of the plays he’s always thought he could make. His in-game decision-making, though still occasionally flawed, is at a much higher level than it was five years ago. He’s a fundamentally better passer, this a testament to the well-documented from-the-ground rework of his mechanics.

Diggs was a catalyst in Allen’s ascension, but he wasn’t the reason for it, and to imply that the quarterback is going to ‘fall off’ in his absence is simply rash.

The implication also ignores the fact that Allen was productive for long stretches of the 2022 and 2023 seasons in which Diggs was largely unimpactful. It also feeds into the baseless narrative that the quarterback cannot “elevate” a receiving corps; well before the arrival of Diggs, Allen—even in his raw, pre-game-wrecker form—was making Robert Foster look like a legitimate NFL wide receiver and was at the helm of career years for players like John Brown and Cole Beasley. Even Diggs elevated his game to the next level when playing with Allen, immediately setting a new career high in receiving yards upon arriving in Orchard Park.

Diggs is an objectively talented wide receiver that Buffalo is going to miss on and off the field. Despite what carefully selected statistics would suggest, Allen is likely going to be just fine without him.

Kyle Silagyi