Bills QB battle heating up as Josh Allen steals show in preseason debut


The Buffalo Bills played their first preseason contest of the 2018 NFL preseason Thursday night and as expected, all eyes were on the quarterback position. The team traded up in the NFL draft to select Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen with the No. 7 overall pick. Allen was highly scrutinized coming out of Wyoming due to accuracy issues, although many NFL decision-makers were infatuated with the 21-year old’s physical traits. Listed at 6-foot-5, 232-pounds, he’s got the prototypical size to go along with impressive athleticism and an absolute cannon for an arm.

During the 2018 NFL free agency period, Buffalo signed former Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron. The three-time National Champion was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals, where he served as Andy Daalton’s primary backup for four years .ency after spending the first four years of his career backing up Andy Dalton for the Cincinnati Bengals after being selected in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL draft. McCarron is a smart passer that protects the ball and can manage the offense efficiently.

Redemption for Nathan Peterman?

Nathan Peterman was Buffalo’s  fifth-round draft pick last year and while his catastrophic debut against the Chargers in which he threw five interceptions during the first half will always be brought up in reference to him, he has made serious strides. The Pitt product earned the start Thursday night to begin the Bills’ preseason thanks to an impressive training camp that’s garnered rave reviews from just about every reporter covering training camp at St. John Fisher College.

The second-year passer has been consistent, getting the ball out quickly and limiting turnovers – which is just what he did against Carolina. While Peterman isn’t close to possessing the same physical gifts as Josh Allen, he works quickly in both the mental and physical aspect of the position, processing things and getting the ball out rapidly on a consistent basis.

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The Bills quarterback rotation was as expected – Peterman got the start, as he and McCarron had been splitting reps with the first-team offense throughout training camp. Josh Allen has been working almost exclusively with the third-team and he played the majority of the second half with Buffalo’s reserves.

Peterman looked great to start the game, completing nine-of-10 passes for 119 yards and one touchdown before being taken out for McCarron. The Alabama product wasn’t as efficient moving the ball downfield as Peterman, but did a good job with the second-unit offense, connecting on seven of his 10 pass attempts for 116 yards including a 59-yard strike to wide receiver Brandon Reilly.

While both Peterman and McCarron were methodical and effective moving the offense down the field, Josh Allen’s performance left Buffalo Bills fans excited for the future. While Allen completed less than 50-percent of his passes (nine-of-19) he threw for 119 yards and one touchdown.

It was immediately obvious that Allen was the superior physical talent to both Nathan Peterman and AJ McCarron. He extended plays with his legs, showed good footwork in his drops from under center, displayed his ridiculously strong arm and made big plays from inside and outside the pocket.

Josh Allen’s very first pass attempt was all anybody unfamiliar with the former Wyoming Cowboy, who completed 56.2-percent of his passes for 5,066 passing yards, 44 touchdowns and 21 interceptions in his collegiate career, needed to see in order to see just how talented his arm is. Allen  effortlessly launched a pass in the direction of undrafted free agent wide receiver Robert Foster that traveled over 50-yards in the air, but it fell just out of bounds.

He did make arguably the worst decision of the game, however, by trying to do too much. Allen rolled out and was under pressure by several Panthers’ defenders but kept his eyes downfield, attempting to locate an open receiver. The pressure got home and as he was being taken down, he chucked the ball in the air, rather than taking the sack – but luckily it wasn’t intercepted.

Outside of that one mental error, Allen showed a good command of the offense, but more importantly, he flashed the potential that led general manager Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott to believe he was the quarterback capable of taking the Bills to the next level.

He made several throws that few, if any, quarterbacks in the entire NFL can make, let alone a rookie seeing his first NFL action can.

This pass to rookie wide receiver Ray Ray McCloud was nothing short of incredible. He manipulates the weakside linebacker upon taking the snap as the running back runs to the flat. McCloud runs an intermediate crossing pattern and due to drawing the linebacker out of position, he shows great awareness of where the ball needs to go and fires a rocket over the middle. McCloud catches the pass in stride and is able to gain extra yards after the catch thanks to the nice anticipation by Allen.

Josh Allen’s future looking bright

(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Josh Allen was a controversial prospect heading into the NFL draft and the opinions on his pro potential were generally one extreme or the other. Those who supported Allen point to his unique arm talent and ability to sling the ball anywhere on the field, his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame and mobility that made him an intriguing piece of clay that simply needs coaching and patience to reach his full potential.

Allen’s detractors point to his 56.2-percent completion percentage in college, noting that it is not only significantly lower than the baseline of 60-percent, but he posted that against weak competition. Now, every situation is different and  nobody knows what Josh Allen can ultimately become. However, in under one half of his debut preseason game, Allen did enough to present Sean McDermott with a difficult decision. Do you roll with the safe Nathan Peterman? Or do you let Allen learn by trial and fire, as he has the talent to create huge plays in the passing game, but doesn’t always protect the football. Either way, Allen was taken to be the long-term starter and he’ll be given every chance to win the job and Thursday night did a lot to ease some concerns analysts and fans had regarding the No. 7 overall draft pick.