With rookie quarterback Josh Allen potentially sidelined for at least the next few weeks with an elbow injury, and Nathan Peterman struggling with interceptions and accuracy, the Buffalo Bills (2-4) are turning to veteran Derek Anderson to provide stability at quarterback.
Head coach Sean McDermott made the announcement Wednesday, ending speculation of whether Peterman would be trotted out as the starter when the Bills travel to face the Indianapolis Colts (1-5) at 1 p.m. Eastern Sunday.
“Derek is a guy I worked with in Carolina,” McDermott told reporters. “He brings experience, leadership presence to the table and he’s worked hard over the past week to get up to speed.”
McDermott also announced that Allen suffered an elbow sprain against Houston and is week-to-week, according to ESPN’s Mike Rodak.
Sean McDermott: Josh Allen has an elbow sprain. He’s week to week. There’s no plan for surgery, but he will be out this week.— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) October 17, 2018
McDermott expressed optimism that his rookie quarterback will see the field again this year. While Allen will be sidelined for a few weeks, McDermott said surgery is not in the works as of now.
”I’m not getting into crystal ball,” McDermott said. “It’s a medical situation right now. We’ll take it one week at a time.”
Peterman is coming off a woeful performance during Sunday’s 20-13 loss to the Houston Texans. He completed 6 of 12 passes for 61 yards with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Zay Jones to briefly give the Bills a 13-10 lead. In the fourth quarter, Peterman tossed a game-changing pick-six and another interception that clinched the win for the Texans.
Anderson, 35, was signed Oct. 9 to a one-year contract with a $1.015 million salary for 2018, and a $58,350 signing bonus.
This will be the journeyman’s first NFL start since Dec. 4, 2016, when Anderson started for the Carolina Panthers vs. the Seattle Seahawks. Anderson’s first and only pass that day was intercepted, and Cam Newton took over on the ensuing Panthers possession.
Before that, Anderson went 18 of 28 for 278 yards, 0 touchdowns and two interceptions in a 17-14 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 10, 2016.
The 13-year veteran has previously started for the Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, and, most recently the Panthers. He has gone 20-27 in 47 career starts, tossing 60 career touchdown passes compared to 60 interceptions with 10,413 career passing yards and a 54.1 completion percentage.
“(Derek’s) a work in progress, just having joined us last week. He’s working hard along with our quarterbacks coach and (offensive coordinator) Brian (Daboll) to get up to speed,” said McDermott, who has familiarity with Anderson after serving as Carolina’s defensive coordinator from 2011-2016 while Anderson was the backup quarterback.
Anderson and Daboll have history working together, as Daboll was the offensive coordinator for the Browns in 2009 and Anderson was his quarterback for eight games (seven starts). Anderson compiled a 3-4 record that year, completing 81 of 182 passes (44.5 percent) with three touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
The challenge of learning the Bills’ playbook, establishing chemistry with the wide receivers and tight ends, and becoming more comfortable with Buffalo’s terminology, is certainly cause for concern when it comes to throwing Anderson to the wolves and starting him Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.
“I think the newness, whether it’s the offense to some extent, whether it’s the players he’d be working with,” McDermott responded when asked about the challenges Anderson would face if he were to start.
“There’s just familiarity and you build trust over a course of reps together, and so on and so forth. That’s part of the challenge.”
When the Bills signed Anderson, they did so to provide a veteran presence in a locker room featuring a rookie (Allen) and a second-year pro (Peterman).
Now, with Allen hurt and Peterman struggling, Anderson, who has only thrown 67 passes (two touchdowns and five interceptions) over the last three years, finds himself starting meaningful games for the quarterback-desperate Bills.
Daboll, in his first year as Buffalo’s offensive coordinator, told members of the media Monday that Anderson is picking up the Bills offense, but that the veteran will need a good game plan and help from teammates to execute the offense.
“I don’t think you can put the whole thing on him (Derek). He’s played a long time, so concepts are concepts. It’s understanding the language. He’s grinding it out,” Daboll said.
“When you get a new player anytime during the year, you have to really hone in on the game plan. You can’t do the whole package, so there are a lot of plays or a lot of code words that we won’t even get to. It’s really game-plan specific. You try and catch up on the road or on your off days of continually putting in the system for him.”
Anderson was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the sixth-round of the 2005 NFL draft out of Oregon State. He was a member of the Browns (2005-2009), Cardinals (2010) and Panthers (2011-2017) before signing with the Bills in October.