On top of being a toolsy but raw quarterback prospect from Wyoming that struggled mightily against Power Five competition during his college career, Josh Allen had a lot to overcome as a rookie. For starters, he primarily received third-team reps until late in the preseason since he was in a three-way competition between himself, Nathan Peterman and AJ McCarron for the starting job. The fate of the competition was for McCarron to be traded prior to Week One and Peterman to win the job only for Allen to replace him during the season opener.
Allen’s top-three receivers - Kelvin Benjamin, Andre Holmes and Jeremy Kerley - entering the season were all released by Week 13. His quarterback coach, David Culley, was never previously an NFL quarterback coach and hadn’t specifically coached the position since his days at UTEP in 1990.
While those are difficult challenges for any rookie quarterback to deal with, I haven’t even discussed how poor Buffalo’s offensive line was in 2018. The Bills lost Cordy Glenn, Eric Wood and Richie Incognito from the previous year and did nothing to replace them aside from adding the perpetually-struggling Russell Bodine and investing a fifth-round pick on Wyatt Teller.
Correcting the mistake of not stabilizing the offensive line for Allen in Year One, general manager Brandon Beane signed six (6!) unrestricted free agent offensive lineman this offseason. Veterans Spencer Long, Ty Nsekhe, Jon Feliciano, Quinton Spain and LaAdrian Waddle were signed, in addition to investing a high second-round selection on Oklahoma offensive tackle Cody Ford.
But the big move to upgrade the unit was inking center Mitch Morse to a record-breaking four-year, $44.5 million deal to make him the highest-paid center in NFL history. Center has become an increasingly important position, especially for young quarterbacks.
Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski did a fantastic job of detailing the importance of the center position in an article about Alex Mack’s arrival in Atlanta and its significant to Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ NFC Championship team in 2016.
As Sobleski noted, Mack was the only piece different in a unit that went 8-8 in 2015 to a Super Bowl offense in 2016. The offense averaged 20.1 more yards per game on the ground and 41.7 through the air.
Sobleski spoke with then Falcons’ and now Bills’ fullback Patrick DiMarco, who commented on Mack’s impact on the offense.
"We joke around with him about being a genius," DiMarco told Bleacher Report. "He understands the offense and knows football at another level. He's making all of our calls along the line. That takes so much off of Matt.
"Over the last few years, Matt had to make the 'Mike' calls, tell the line what to do and called hot routes. When Mack first arrived, he said, 'Hey, Matt. You worry about the coverage. I got the protection.'' It's shown and taken so much off of Ryan's shoulders. He can now be himself and attack defenses."
As Sobleski pointed out, Ryan’s game elevated with fewer responsibilities. He set career highs with a 69.9 completion percentage, 4,944 passing yards, 9.26 yards per attempt, 38 touchdowns and a career-low seven interceptions.
Morse missed the Bills first 10 OTA practices working back from offseason surgery but stepped into the lineup this past week for the first time. On a call into One Bills Live on Tuesday, Morse commented on his role with the team, specifically referencing the importance of working with Allen.
“I think for me my job is to make life for Josh [Allen] as easy as possible,” Morse said. “Being kind of a liaison between the offensive line and Josh. Pat [Mahomes] and I learned a lot from each other this year and he helped me out more than I probably helped him out. It’s good to have a kind of continuous line of communication and having the same verbiage and seeing the same thing. I’m really excited, Josh is a really big reason why I came to Buffalo. Your team has to be revolved around a talented quarterback to make the playoffs and I think Josh has the ability to do that.”
Allen spoke to the media after Wednesday’s practice and commented on how important his relationship with Morse is and for them to be on the same page.
“We’ve got to be the same person this year, me and Mitch,” Allen said. “That’s what we’re working on right now. Having that open communication and trying to see the same thing at the same time.”
From a new quarterback coach and an improved receiving corps to a revamped offensive line and being “the guy” from Day One, several factors are more favorable for Allen entering his sophomore season. With that said, nothing that changed this offseason carries the significance of what a top-tier center like Morse can do for Allen and Buffalo’s offense.