The much-anticipated first NFL start for Buffalo Bills rookie QB Josh Allen came on Sunday. Like most rookies in their first start, there was a mix of some good and a lot of bad. Completing 18-of-33 passes for 245 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, Allen also added 32 rushing yards on eight carries in Buffalo’s 31-20 loss to the Chargers.
Allen had his share of inaccurate throws, missed reads and lack of pocket awareness. He also had moments where he extended plays and showcased his impressive arm talent. All of that is to be expected.
The scenario in Buffalo is far from ideal to be playing Allen in. The offensive line is unreliable, rushing attack has shown little signs of life and Buffalo’s receivers are among the least inspiring in the league. It’s very different from what Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City has experienced. After a year of seasoning with Andy Reid and serving as Alex Smith’s understudy, the Chiefs returned a veteran offensive line, a star running back in Kareem Hunt, a top 5 NFL tight end in Travis Kelce and immensely talented receivers in Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins to usher in the Mahomes era.
There’s 14 more games to play and reinforcements for Buffalo aren’t on the way. This is the hand Allen is dealt. Yet, I still believe starting Allen is the correct move. Obviously, Nathan Peterman has played at such a poor level that there is no real alternative but Allen gaining experience in a rebuilding year for the Bills is the best thing for him. Failing forward with Allen should be the Bills objective.
Allen isn’t going to be ruined gaining time in this situation. He’s been one of the most criticized prospects I have ever seen. It often seems like a contest to come up with the best jabs at him on social media, as if there is some type of prize awarded. The Bills banked on his upside and ultimately Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane’s tenure in Buffalo will be judged based upon his success.
In watching and then reviewing Allen’s performance against the Chargers, there was a notable difference in how effective the offense was in the second half compared to the first.
Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is known for running an Erhardt-Perkins offensive system. The EP offense is a concepts-based scheme that allows for considerable variations in personnel and is dictated by taking advantage of what the defense gives you. Once mastered, it’s a difficult system to defend.
The challenge for a rookie QB like Josh Allen who was knocked for his inconsistent processing skills in the draft process is that it puts a lot on his plate in terms of diagnosing defenses and executing based on proper reads. The Bills offense features very little in terms of schemed throws and quick game to help establish rhythm and confidence for Allen. While that changed a bit in the second half against LA, mixing in more simplicity for Allen is needed moving forward. Buffalo can also do more to take advantage of his size and athletic ability as a runner like it started to do in the second half.
If your expectation was from Allen to come in and light up the NFL from the outset, your hopes were too high. Especially on this Buffalo offense.
Allen and the Bills offense is a work in progress. Developing consistency and having his eyes in the right places to execute effectively is going to take some time. Gaining experience and working through the tape with the coaching staff is the best thing for Allen. There is no substitute for live reps on Sundays and all of Allen’s shortcoming are fixable. Now its up to McDermott and his staff to develop Allen.