Buffalo Bills Roster Preview: Lofton Exercise 2.0: Quarterbacks


After looking at the Buffalo Bills’ elite defensive unit, divided by defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs, it’s time to flip sides and evaluate the offense. The “Lofton Exercise” has been my evaluation method, and now I’m going to use it to look at the quarterbacks.

That’s the most important position in the game, and for Buffalo it’s isn’t any different. How those players perform during the season will dictate how far the team can go in 2020 and beyond. Can they win games for you, can you win with them, or do you need better? Let’s figure it out:

Can Win Games for You

Josh Allen

It’s definitely a big year for the third year pro. As the team seems ready for the next step, aiming for the division title and a deep playoff run, Allen’s play will be crucial to Buffalo’s aspirations.

Allen steadily improved from year one to two as GM Brandon Beane continued to add weapons around him. With the arrivals of veteran wide receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley, a revamped offensive line, and the rookie additions of Dawson Knox and Devin Singletary, Allen found the help necessary to take a step forward and improve the unit from 31st in the league in 2018 to 21st in 2019 (according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric). He was directly responsible for 29 TDs in 2019 (20 passing and nine rushing), an 11 TD jump from 2018 (18 total, 10 passing and eight rushing). His completion percentage went up from 52.8% to 58.8%, interception percentage went down from 3.8% to 2.0%, and his QB rating improved from 67.9 to 85.3.

Since becoming the team’s starting QB, Allen has been the focal point of offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s offense. His inconsistencies as a passer and decision maker still cause some problems for the Bills’ offense, but more often than not, the Wyoming product is capable of overcoming those issues with his elite play-making skills.

He’s a QB who puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses with his running ability, capacity of buying time in the pocket, and powerful arm. Despite lacking deep shot accuracy, Allen has evolved into a very good passer in the intermediate area(10 to 20-yard passes), where the majority of the game is played. The interception issue seems solved, but he still needs to avoid fumbles (14 last season).

Most people don’t think Allen will repeat the improvement from year one to two in his third year. However, for the first time in his life he’ll have a true number one wide receiver at his disposal in Stefon Diggs. The offense will have continuity, and everything seems in place to allow the signal caller to continue his rise to stardom. If he can take another step forward, he can even become the next league’s star.

Allen surely has a lot of doubters and some important steps to take in 2020, but the arrow is trending up for him, and he definitely can win games for the Bills. He just needs to do it more consistently.

Need Better

Matt Barkley

No, I don’t believe Barkley is a “Can win with him” type of player. The Bills can’t consistently win games with Matt Barkley as the starter, unless the defense plays lights out every game. However, with his role in mind, I think he’s a guy that can step in for a limited time and keep the offense functional.

Barkley is a solid backup. He’s smart, well respected by his teammates, and is accurate enough to be a solid game manager. Two years ago, in his first game as a Bill, he showed his qualities leading the team to an away win against the Jets. He didn’t have the same type of success in 2019, though.

In two appearances last year, both losses, Barkley completed just 27 of 51 passes (52.9%) for 359 yards, no TDs, and three INTs. Those are numbers more similar to what Barkley put up before coming to Buffalo, and that’s very concerning.

Davis Webb

A developmental guy, the former third-round pick hasn’t done anything at the pro level so far to show that he’s someone you can trust when the bullets are flying. Due to the uncommon offseason, he should have very limited opportunities to show otherwise, either in training camp or preseason.

Rookie Watch

Jake Fromm

The fifth-round pick out of Georgia comes to Buffalo to compete for the backup job. According to GM Brandon Beane, he wasn’t planning to add Fromm during the draft, but his availability that late in the event was “too good to pass on”.

Fromm doesn’t have a great arm, and one of the biggest reasons why he was considered an intriguing prospect, his leadership and character, took a hit with the emergence of racist text messages he sent a few months ago. It looks like the Bills’ locker room is ready to give him a chance, but that’s not the ideal way to start winning over your teammates.

On the field, Fromm isn’t really ready to have an impact. He should be at least one year away of being able to challenge Barkley for the backup job. Right now, Fromm’s focus needs to be showing enough to warrant a place on the roster as the third QB. Today, he is a “Need better” guy.


The Bills have their guy for 2020 in Josh Allen. The team’s success is attached to how he performs in his third year. He’s beloved by his teammates and the team rallies around him. Another jump in production and Buffalo can assume they have their franchise guy for the foreseeable future. Consistency is the key; continuing to improve the small things will get Allen to where he needs to be. Right now he still is sort of a roller-coaster QB, with his volatile ups and downs. He’s a “can win games for you” guy in my book, but his “need better” moments must be, if not erased, then diminished.

Barkley is OK to step in here and there, but it’s pretty obvious that the team needs better if he needs to start for multiple weeks. Webb and Fromm are the developmental guys, trying to impress to stick on the roster. Neither of them inspires much confidence if needed to play this year.

Roster Comparison

2018 QBs

  • Can win games for you: 1 (Allen)
  • Can win with him: 1 (Barkley)

2019 QBs

  • Can win games for you: 1 (Allen)
  • Need better: 3 (Barkley, Webb, Fromm)