The quarterback competition heats up early in Bills camp

Is Josh Allen making a push to move up the depth chart?

Howard Simon
July 30, 2018 - 6:33 pm

Photo: Mark Konezny - USA TODAY Sports

I got a text from Sal Capaccio on Saturday and it made my weekend. Sal wanted to let me know that Josh Allen had his best day of camp so far and that he had some reps with the first team offense. He also said the gap between Josh Allen and A.J. McCarron / Nathan Peterman was narrowing. I think that was his way of telling us the #WHOSDAQ needed its first adjustment of camp.

In his story recapping practice that day, Sal wrote that it was clear Allen is a legitimate option to start in Week 1. When I read that, I realized that I hadn’t really been considering that as a possibility. Based on the reps during OTAs and minicamp, it looked like it was not a true three-man competition and that the Bills brain trust was taking a very slow, methodical approach to Allen’s development.

Throw that in with a new offensive coordinator, an overhauled offensive line and, what appears to be, a below average collection of talent at wide receiver and it just didn’t seem like an ideal scenario for a rookie quarterback.

Sal also wrote that Allen is clearly the most naturally gifted quarterback out there every day. I’m not really surprised by that because he obviously has the strongest arm of the three, in addition to an ideal NFL size and the ability to run when / if needed.

I wasn’t convinced that talent would be enough to overcome lack of experience and put Brandon Beane, Sean McDermott and company at ease with the idea of playing the seventh overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft in Baltimore on opening day. It still might not be enough, but what many observers have termed as a very low bar for Allen could also clear his path to the No. 1 job by September 9. While Allen is still getting the fewest number of reps with the ones, neither McCarron nor Peterman has done anything to improve their chances of winning this competition.

Sal has seen every practice at camp and said the deficiencies in Peterman’s game are beginning to show up in the 11-on-11 drills.

McCarron has probably been the most consistent of the three, but has had issues with holding on to the ball too long and taking what would be sacks in a game situation. McCarron appears to be taking a safe approach to this point, hoping to avoid interceptions and losing the battle. It's almost like a politician who has a big lead in the polls and is advised not to take part in a debate against his or her opponent. With a lead in the polls, why take a chance and do something that might cost you? Of course, McCarron could be doing what the coaches want. McDermott always talks about protecting the football, so perhaps McCarron feels taking chances in practice and running the risk of throwing a pick isn’t a good idea.

Last season Bills quarterbacks were picked off just 10 times. While that's all well and good, they threw just 16 touchdown passes…in a league that goes out of its way to help the passing game. In fact, over the last five seasons, the Bills have thrown for 20 or more touchdowns in a season just one time. The other four years they totaled 16, 17, 16 and 16, which is pretty darn bad. I’ll live with a few more interceptions if it means there will be more big plays in the passing game which can result in more points.

But since the Bills' plan seems to be run the ball and field a strong defense, McCarron may be the man for the job for the time being.

Based on what Beane told the Toronto Sun, it sounds like the current reps plan with the quarterbacks will continue right up to the first preseason game. That means McCarron and Peterman getting the majority of reps with the ones and twos and Allen getting, at least, a period a day with the ones and then spending the rest of his time with the threes. It will be interesting to see if anything changes prior to the August 9 preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers.

The Panthers game will be fascinating as well to see who starts and how much playing time Allen gets. Right now, I’d guess that McCarron starts, but I wonder if Allen does enough to get some playing time with the twos that night. Beane said they will adjust the quarterback reps plan after that game. They’ll decide whether or not Allen should get more snaps with the ones, less, or stay with the same plan. 

Beane and McDermott have maintained they will put the best 46 players on the field on game day and will put the best quarterback out there who can help them win each week. Allen is the most talented and is now beginning to show that at training camp. The question remains if he can perform with the consistency that will allow him to be QB1 come the opener against the Ravens.

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