CAPACCIO: All the starters' reps from Day 1 will have the biggest impact on Allen in 2019

The second-year quarterback starts the offseason as the unquestioned starter

Sal Capaccio
April 01, 2019 - 11:12 am

Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports

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11 months ago, the Buffalo Bills selected Josh Allen in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. The team also had quarterbacks Nathan Peterman and A.J. McCarron on the roster. General manager Brandon Beane, head coach Sean McDermott and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll all said all three would get a legitimate chance to win the starting job. In order to do that, each of them had to get equal, or at least close to it, reps throughout minicamps, training camp, and probably at least the first couple preseason games.

McCarron got hurt during the team’s second exhibition game, leaving Allen and Peterman to split reps for a couple weeks. However, neither was taking the amount of snaps an unquestioned starter would normally get. No matter who won the job, that’s a lot of opportunity missed to develop chemistry with receivers and the offensive line, and simply just to practice and get better against live competition.

We all know what happened. McCarron was traded right after the final preseason game. Peterman was named the starter, and Allen the backup. In an ideal plan, that’s the way it would be for the entire season, allowing Allen to get as much work in practice as possible, while watching and learning during games and getting some time on the field when those chances presented themselves. However, Peterman and the offense struggled so much Week 1 in Baltimore that McDermott turned to Allen immediately the following week and the rest of the season, aside from an elbow injury that cost him four starts in the middle of the schedule.

So here Allen was, now the permanent starting quarterback for, essentially, an entire season, but with probably one-third to one-half of the reps most other full-time starters had. Obviously not normal, and certainly not ideal. The results were an uneven year from Allen, who finished with the lowest completion percentage (52.8-percent) of all qualifying quarterbacks, but no doubt got better as the season went on and after returning from the elbow injury.

Also a factor in Allen’s season was the lack talent around him. A wide receiver group that couldn't get much separation or even hold on to the ball consistently, and an offensive line that struggled to open holes for the run game and was inconsistent at best protecting their quarterbacks.

So what did Beane do about all of that? He went out and spent over half of the close to $80 million in salary cap space the team had heading into free agency on 12 different offensive players, by far more than any other team in the league. They made a concentrated effort to get their young quarterback help. Help in front of him. Help behind him. Help outside of him. Help protecting him. Help catching passes from him. Beane made Mitch Morse the highest paid center in the league. He spent over $16 million per-year on receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley. He signed five different offensive linemen, plus two tight ends. He added Frank Gore, one of the best pass-blocking running backs of this generation.

Yet, even with all of that help, all of that money spent, and all of those resources devoted to the offense and specifically helping Allen move into Year 2, none of those moves on their own or even all of them added up, will be as important or as meaningful to him or the team than what’s going to happen the moment the team reports to their offseason program staring April 15 and then through the entire offseason.

From Day 1, Josh Allen will be the unquestioned starter and get every rep as QB1. He’s not fighting with anyone else for the job. He’s not looking over his shoulder if he throws an interception in camp. What he is going to do is get at least double, and maybe even close to triple, the number of reps he got last offseason. On top of that, all of those reps will be with the first-team offense, as opposed to the second- and third-team, where he was for a majority of last summer and training camp. His face will be the only one the starting offense sees in the huddle. His voice is the only one they’ll hear the cadence from at the line. Morse’s butt will be the only one Allen needs to look at before every play.

All of this will be the biggest difference for Allen, or at least it should be. Even head coach Sean McDermott acknowledged as much last week at the NFL owners meetings.

“Well, number one it adds clarity to our situation, which is a good thing,” he said, referring back to last year’s three-man competition, and the team trying to figure out who the starting quarterback would be. “Last year, I’ve already gone back and looked at the reps and we were trying to split the reps as evenly as we could so that our threes could develop as much as our ones and sometimes that’s hard to do, but we know that Josh was running with the threes. So there was a process in place that we felt was right for us and his development then, and so moving forward to now, there will be a process in place where he’ll be out there with the ones, and you try and get as much continuity with the guys that work with him starting day one all the way through, hopefully, training camp.”

Of course, it’s not as easy as just saying “You’re the man!” and getting him more reps, and Allen suddenly making a huge leap in production. He has to understand the opportunity he has in from of him and take advantage of it, as well.

“The important thing is that he develops and takes ownership of his development, takes ownership of his career and this offseason is an important part of that, or an important chapter in that process of his career, and subsequently our success in Buffalo.”

There’s limited contact coaches can have with any player on their roster this time of year, which makes it tough for McDermott or Beane to know exactly what Allen is doing on a day-to-day basis, so the head coach said it’s all about trusting that he understands what’s before him.

“When you draft a player, you try to get to know him enough that he’ll be a responsible, shepard of his career when he’s not with us. We feel like he’s had a pretty good offseason to this point from what we’re able to tell.”

In a few weeks, Allen will have a chance to prove to his coach and teammates he’s done just that. He’ll have every opportunity to do it, both figuratively and literally. 


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