The Buffalo Bills decision to trade into the top-10 to select quarterback Josh Allen was met with doubt from many, including myself. Given his erratic ball placement in college, combined with sloppy footwork and highly questionable decision making, there was ample cause for concern. Yet, the Bills’ brass was comfortable with his shortcomings and banked on his exceptional physical traits to serve as a strong foundation to grow into an NFL franchise quarterback.
So far, so good for the perceived “raw” Allen. Yes, it’s only been two preseason games, but there is a lot to like about what Allen has put on tape to this point, especially considering the concerns surrounding Allen entering the league.
After a solid debut last week against Carolina working with the third-string offense, Allen was given the chance to play with the two’s on Friday night against Cleveland. Completing 9-of-14 passes for 60 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions, Allen earned a passer rating of 104.6. He added 18 yards rushing on three carries.
There was a lot to like about Allen’s performance against the Browns.
With AJ McCarron starting the contest, the Buffalo offense went three-and-out on its first four drives of the game. Allen replaced McCarron in the second quarter and engineered three consecutive scoring drives before Nathan Peterman got his turn with the offense.
Allen’s best drive was his first one where he led the Buffalo offense on a 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. After misfiring on his first attempt, despite a good read, Allen settled in and made smart decisions with the football with mostly accurate throws.
The highlight of the night was his touchdown hookup with Rod Streater. Faced with a third-and-goal from the two-yard line, Allen showcased perfect pocket mobility to elude the rusher, kept his eyes downfield and put the ball perfectly on Streater for the score. He was calm amid chaos and delivered a strike.
Cleveland mixed up its coverages against Allen throughout the night and Allen did well to examine things pre-snap and attack the defense where it was vulnerable.
This next rep may appear to be a simple pitch and catch, but not executing this very type of thing was a knock on Allen coming out of Wyoming. It’s clear by alignment that the Browns were going to be soft outside the numbers. Buffalo had a perfect route combination of layered out routes to Allen’s right. Allen initially locks in on the safety, which helps the receivers establish outside leverage. He aligns his shoulders and delivers an accurate dart in a fairly tight window given the layered routes and sideline.
Given Allen’s arm strength and ability to challenge the deepest throwing window on the football field, Cleveland played it’s safeties extremely deep off the ball. Known for his gunslinger mentality, Allen was guilty of throws that were too ambitious in college and got himself into trouble trying to fit the ball into places it simply cannot go. And while there may seem to be nothing overly impressive about this next rep, it’s the growth and commitment to making the easy things look easy that impress.
Quickly reading zone coverage, Allen allows the linebackers to drift before hitting his tight end over the middle on a comeback route in front of the second level. He didn’t force anything, took what the defense gave him and set up a third-and-short situation.
Quite honestly, Allen has showcased more poise in the pocket and calmness under pressure to use his legs to extend plays that I did not expect to see this early in his development. There’s also been a few reps where Allen didn’t recognize unaccounted for blitzers that have led to negative plays. But all in all, there’s a lot to be excited about regarding Allen’s execution when he’s in the lineup. So much so that he’s beginning to make a strong case to truly challenge for the starting role.
With the unfortunate news regarding McCarron’s collarbone injury, Buffalo’s quarterback competition is going from a three-man race to a two-man race between Allen and Peterman.
Completing 17-of-20 passes for 231 yards with two touchdowns, one interception (tipped off WRs hands) and a quarterback rating of 127.3, Peterman has played well so far this preseason. He may very well be the Bills’ opening day starter. Considering Buffalo’s first three games of the season come against top-flight defenses in the Ravens, Chargers and Vikings, it may be best to not play Allen in any of those games regardless.
But the way Allen is developing and performing on the field is reason for optimism that Buffalo has finally found its franchise quarterback for the first time since Jim Kelly retired.
Allen is making head coach Sean McDermott’s decision on who to name the Bills’ starter a difficult one, and Allen’s opportunity to be the guy may come sooner than we all expected a few months ago.