Allen preparing as if he will start against the Jaguars

The rookie quarterback is feeling where he needs to be with his right elbow

Brayton Wilson
November 19, 2018 - 2:39 pm

Photo: Rich Barnes - USA TODAY Sports

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For the first time since suffering a sprained elbow against the Houston Texans back on October 14, Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback Josh Allen was back on the practice field as a full participant.

The team returned from the bye week on Monday with Allen back on the field with the first-team offense and fully participating in drills. Allen has been on the field and practicing for a couple of weeks now, but only on a limited basis. During the week of the Bills' matchup with the New York Jets, there was some thought that the rookie could play after practicing all week on a limited basis. However, it was announced the day before that he would not play and that Matt Barkley would start instead of Nathan Peterman.

Now, after an extra week of rest and recovery, the 22-year-old is getting himself ready to play this Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars at New Era Field.

“The comfort level in the elbow is getting to where I think it needs to be, where I want it to be,” said Allen following practice on Monday. “I know we’re still taking it day-by-day, but I’m coming out here and I’m going to act like gonna be I’m starting on Sunday. I’m excited, thankful the opportunity. Our training staff… they did a fantastic job with me, and we’re going to continue with that process.

“The difference I feel in the elbow right now compared to two weeks ago is a very big difference. I’m thankful that I was able to sit out for one more week and [have] Matt come in and get us a victory. I got to learn a lot from that game as well. To see some of our guys go out there and make some plays and see the offense and how they performed, it was very exciting to see that. I’m looking forward to see what comes next.”

Allen suffered his sprained elbow in the third quarter of the team's 20-13 loss to the Texans when he was hit late by linebacker Whitney Mercilus on a big throw to wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. On the next play, he attempted another throw that missed his target, but came up in some discomfort and was forced to leave the game.

Since then, Allen has spent his time rehabbing his injured elbow and working to get back on the field as soon as possible. When he started to throw again, it was a slow and tedious process to get his elbow back to where he felt comfortable in his ability to make good, and confident throws. After Monday's practice at One Bills Drive, the young rookie was feeling good about how the ball was coming out of his hand.

“I’m making throws where I don’t have to second guess,” Allen said. “I’m putting the ball where it needs to be, and when I’m making a throw there’s no grabbing or pulling in there. It feels comfortable. It feels fluid. Maybe two weeks ago, I might have had a couple of throws where I don’t want to make this throw yet. Now, I definitely think it’s full game and every throw is on the table.”

“You could tell he had some extra pop in him, just very fresh," said wide receiver Zay Jones of his quarterback. "Maybe that’s coming off the bye week or the time that he had to rest, but he looks very refreshed and ready to go. I’m excited to see what he does.”

Perhaps Allen's biggest challenge this week with his elbow is how it will withstand any physical contact from the opposing defense. However, nothing seems to be phasing Allen to this point as to what may happen when he faces a difficult Jacksonville defense.

“It’s just like anything else. Any football game, you can be hit one way or another,” Allen said. “It’s not the safest sport that we play. It’s a beautifully violent game, and that’s what I love about it. You have to go out there, you have to compete and trust the guys around you. You’re going to take some licks and hits, but it ultimately depends on how you feel. I feel confident with this offense moving forward and with my body.”

In addition to recovering and getting his elbow as close to 100-percent as possible, the rookie has gotten the chance to watch and learn from a couple of veteran quarterbacks that have come into the picture.

Derek Anderson was signed just before Allen suffered his injury, but was forced into action when the team knew that Allen was going to be out for some time, and also when the team could not rely on Peterman to start under center. Anderson got into two games with the Bills before suffering a concussion late in the team's Monday Night Football matchup with the New England Patriots.

Shortly after Anderson's injury, the team brought along Barkley, who started for the Bills against the Jets and earned himself an impressive 41-10 win in the Meadowlands.

Allen feels fortunate to have gotten the chance to have learned something from both Anderson and Barkley in their time commanding this Buffalo offense.

“Just seeing how Derek approached it – he came in and really took charge of the offense. And just the little things – talking in walkthroughs, making sure guys knew what they were going to do in the play, giving them little tidbits and reminders before they broke the huddle. Then Matt comes in and kind of does the same things. To learn from two pros that have been at it for a while has been very helpful for me. I appreciate the front office for bringing those two guys in. It will definitely help in the long run.”

“I think that his confidence level has risen,” said wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin after practice on Monday. “I think last week it didn’t seem like that he was comfortable with himself, but today he felt pretty good about himself. He broke it down, talked to us and told us ‘let’s go get this win.’”

It has been a rough season for the Bills offense as a group, currently sitting as the lowest scoring team in the National Football League (13.7 points per-game), and ranking as the 31st overall offense behind the Arizona Cardinals. However, the win over the Jets was a promising sign of a possible late-season turnaround for the group overall. As Allen has said during his time of recovery, he feels that the offense is close when it comes to putting things together and clicking as a unit.

“We went out and executed very well against a good Jets defense," Allen said. "It’s no [easy] task for Matt to come in and, within a week, be named the starter for the game and go out and get us a win. It just speaks volumes to the guys that we have in the locker room, the guys that we want to bring in to this locker room. We want guys that are team-first guys, and that showed last Sunday.”

This week will be a tough challenge for Allen in his first week back from injury as the Jaguars come to town in a rematch of the AFC Wild Card Round from last season. While the Jaguars have really struggled as of late, losers of their last six games, the defense has remained as one of the best units in the NFL. Jacksonville currently ranks fourth in overall defense, giving up an average of 319.5 yards per-game, and is built extremely well from the front-seven to the secondary.

Allen watched the Jaguars' game this past Sunday when they hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he knows what it will take to earn a victory this Sunday in front of the home crowd.

“This Jacksonville defense is going to be one of the best defenses we play all year,” Allen said. “They’ve got some very good players on that side. Their linebackers move very well. Their front four – they’ve paid them a lot of money for a very good reason, they’ve got some studs up front. In the back, they’ve got a couple of really good corners, maybe one of the best in the game (Jalen Ramsey). He made some plays yesterday, but ultimately, Pittsburgh was able to go down there and make a couple more plays then they were. That’s how they were able to pull it off. Just looking at it for now, we’re gonna have to make some plays on some tightly contested footballs. That’s what it boils down to.”

One thing to pay attention to closely in this matchup is how well Allen looks against all-pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The third-year All-Pro corner is having another stellar season in Jacksonville with 38 combined tackled and three interceptions in 10 games played.

If you remember, Ramsey made some interesting comments to GQ magazine on Allen before the season, saying that the rookie was "trash" and that he was hoping that Allen would start against the Jaguars this season.

While Allen didn't remember what Ramsey had to say about him before the season, he is not paying attention to anything that his opposition has had to say.

“It doesn’t [stick with me],” Allen said. “I honestly don’t even remember what he said, but I could care less. It’s more about what my teammates feel about me, how I’m progressing right now, and I’m just trying to continue to learn the game of football, enjoy this and live it with my teammates.”

The Bills will return to the practice field on Tuesday with the team having the Thanksgiving holiday off on Thursday.

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