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Buffalo Bills quarterback rotation on Day 1 goes as expected

It was experience followed by the rookie.

The Buffalo Bills kicked off their quarterback competition in earnest at Thursday night’s training camp practice. With the first 11-on-11 snaps of Josh Allen’s pro career as the backdrop, Bills head coach Sean McDermott kept it slow and steady for the rookie and allowed the experienced QBs the bulk of the work.

It was not the veteran free agent AJ McCarron under center with the first-team offense on Thursday night. That honor went to the only holdover from a year ago, Nathan Peterman. They ran a clear 1-2 all night with Allen running third-team.

“Every situation is different. I don’t think there’s a perfect way out there and a perfect date and time to name a starter, no different than a lot of positions,” McDermott said before practice. “I understand the quarterback position is a little bit different in some ways. We’re in the middle of a competition here and we’ll see how it goes. We’re going to gather as much information as we can from what goes on on the grass and also what goes on off the field. We’ll move forward when we feel the time is right.”

On the first pass of the day, Peterman threw what should have been a pick-six for Tre’Davious White, who jumped the route but couldn’t make the catch. Following practice, Peterman wouldn’t comment on taking the first rep of camp, other than to say he was grateful for the opportunity.

“[Competing] is what football is supposed to be,” he told reporters. “It’s about competing every single day, earning your spot. It’s exciting to be a part of.”

That doesn’t mean Allen didn’t get time with the starters. Kelvin Benjamin was among the receivers sprinkled into the third-team reps to develop chemistry with Allen. The rookie also saw a few snaps with the first-team during the walkthrough portion of practice and later in some live speed 9-on-9 drills, but they were only a couple snaps where he was with the starters.

Fans cheered every time Allen completed a pass, and at the beginning of practice those were frequent. He found Brandon Reilly on the left side of the field about 15 yards past the line of scrimmage during 11-on-11, and threw a nice pass to Patrick DiMarco (working with the third team as there are only two fullbacks) on a wide open delayed swing route. Allen put both throws on the money for yards after the catch.

Allen ended practice with two particularly bad throws to his running backs in close quarters. You can see one here in video shot from the stands. (Reporters aren’t allowed to video or photograph after the first fifteen minutes of practice.)

“I always focus on what happened badly in practice, and there were a couple throws that got away from me,” Allen told reporters after practice. “The one where the running back was right in front of me just kind of handcuffed me. I never really had one of those types of throws. Good thing it happened in practice, not a game, so we can learn from it, continue to grow, and work on improving every day.”

It will be interesting to monitor the rotation into Day 2 and Day 3 leading up to the first preseason game in a couple weeks. Will it be a true open competition or will the rep chart change based on their play in practice? None of the quarterbacks knew when asked after practice.

From my vantage point, McCarron was the most consistent on the day. He found players at the second level in multiple stages of his reads. That’s easier to do in training camp when you can’t get hit, but it’s still worth noting.

Peterman had the early questionable decision but calmed down and was good most of the rest of the way.

As noted above, Allen started the day really well. He showed off his strong arm on some deep passes, fit the ball into tight windows (including one notable dart to UDFA Robert Foster), found guys all over the field, and showed relatively good touch on passes like the one above to DiMarco. He also finished practice with some abysmal throws. The missed dumpoffs weren’t just overthrows, the ball came out fluttering like it had been tipped or his arm had been knocked. His normal tight spiral had been replaced with a wobbling duck.

Buckle up, Bills fans. We’ve only just begun.