Bills rookie QB Allen eagerly awaiting first preseason start
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Excited by the opportunity of securing the Buffalo Bills‘ starting job, rookie quarterback Josh Allen had no intention of keeping anyone waiting Wednesday.
That included members of the media seeking to hear Allen’s first public reaction two days after the Bills announced he would start in Buffalo’s preseason game against Cincinnati on Sunday.
Upon completing extra work after practice, the quarterback skipped through the fieldhouse doors, then jogged toward a large group of reporters gathered outside the locker room. Apologizing for being late, the 22-year-old was still trying to catch his breath while attempting to put this week’s developments into perspective.
“It’s crazy to think about, definitely, but I’m not going out there to try to prove why I’m the starter or whatever the case may be,” Allen said. “This is an opportunity for me, and I’m not going to take it lightly. But at the same time, I’m here for whatever the team needs, and I’m just going to try to do my job.”
Allen did his best to de-emphasize the significance his first preseason start represents by calling it “just another game.”
If only it were so simple for a player the Bills traded up five spots to select with the seventh pick — the highest draft position the franchise has used to choose a quarterback.
In the four months since, the Wyoming product has gone from a raw prospect requiring time to develop behind either free-agent addition AJ McCarron or returning backup Nathan Peterman, to having a realistic shot at being the team’s season-opening starter.
Allen’s opportunity comes after showing gradual signs of improvement through the first weeks of training camp, which carried over into Buffalo’s first two preseason games.
In a preseason-opening loss to Carolina on Aug. 9, he showed off his strong arm, but was erratic by finishing 9 of 19 for 116 yards and a touchdown while overseeing the third-string offense.
On Friday, Allen went 9 of 13 for 60 yards and a touchdown in leading the second-stringers on scoring drives — including two field goals — on each of his three series during a 19-17 win at Cleveland .
Rather than not revealing the starter until an hour before kickoff, as coach Sean McDermott did the two previous weeks, the Bills announced Allen would start against the Bengals in a message posted on their Twitter account Monday evening.
McDermott said the difference in his approach was to provide Allen a chance to experience what a normal NFL week during the regular season would resemble.
“It’s just him dipping his toes in the water, if you will, of what that looks like on and off the field,” he said. “How he handles his teammates. How he handles the meetings. How he handles the interviews. That’s all part of what comes with that starting quarterback position.”
McDermott wouldn’t divulge how long Allen might play Sunday, or commit to whether he has a chance of securing the starting job with a good outing.
Peterman will serve as the backup, while McCarron’s status is uncertain after he hurt his right throwing shoulder against Cleveland. McCarron returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday after missing the previous two sessions.
All eyes will be on the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Allen, who is being asked to fill a position that’s remained unsettled since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired following the 1996 season. Allen’s two touchdown passes showed glimpses of his potential.
Against Carolina, he zipped the ball between two defenders in hitting Ray-Ray McCloud III for a 14-yard touchdown. Against Cleveland, Allen avoided the pass rush, stepped up in the pocket and flicked his wrist to hit Rod Streater in the back of the end zone for a 2-yard score.
“You definitely can see the poise, definitely see the elusiveness,” Streater said of Allen. “All those things are going to come to him. It has come to him now. But he’s going to grow even more in the future. It’s exciting to see him grow.”
One step at a time, Allen said.
“I was happy with the performance, but I’m not content,” he said, referring to the game Friday. “Just trying to learn from every little mistake on the field, and even learn from every success, too.”
Question marks remain regarding a player who has had limited experience with Bills starters and has yet to face an opposing team’s starting defense. Asked how much the pace of the game has slowed down, Allen provided a candid response, saying: “I guess we’ll find out come Sunday.”