The Buffalo Bills have completed two of their four preseason games in 2018, and while their starting quarterback competition appears far from settled, events from Friday night’s 19-17 win over the Cleveland Browns have provided some clarity on where things are headed there.
With next Sunday’s trip to Cincinnati serving as the de facto regular season dress rehearsal for the club, here is where things (seem to) stand for the Bills at quarterback heading into that game.
McCarron reportedly suffered a hairline fracture to his collarbone at some point in his four series’ worth of action last night. Obviously, that type of injury could very well keep him out of the lineup for an extended period of time, and it’s an unfortunate development in his bid to win his first starting job at the pro level.
Even before that news broke, however, McCarron seemed to have lost ground in the race. McCarron’s chunk of playing time with the starting offense in Cleveland was easily the worst performance by a Bills quarterback thus far this preseason. That wasn’t necessarily all on McCarron, of course, but when you’re the owner of the only truly poor performance thus far in the competition, you’re naturally going to slip a little bit.
Here’s to hoping that McCarron’s injury is not serious enough to keep him out for too long.
Allen was a breath of fresh air for the Bills’ offense in Cleveland. Following four straight three-and-outs from the starters, the offense scored on three consecutive possessions (a touchdown and two field goals) after Allen entered the game. Granted, all of that happened after Cleveland pulled their defensive starters, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that Allen elevated the play of the unit when he was on the field.
Through two preseason games, Allen is 18-of-32 for 176 yards with two touchdowns, no turnovers, and a quarterback rating of 92.7. He has also added 47 rushing yards on six attempts, and his ability to extend plays with his legs is becoming a distinct advantage for him in the competition.
We have not really learned anything about Allen this preseason that we didn’t already know. He is Buffalo’s most talented quarterback by a country mile. He throws a great heater, but his off-speed stuff needs some work. He seems to have a good head on his shoulders, but it’s not at all clear yet how he’d handle on-field adversity when the games count. In a perfect world, he’d sit and learn for a little while, but he may not have that opportunity in Buffalo.
Allen is probably the fan favorite to start at this point. That won’t matter to Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott. But given his consistent performance after moving from the third-team offense to the second-team offense this past week, it would frankly be shocking at this point if Allen didn’t see time with the first-team offense next week - especially if McCarron is sidelined.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Peterman could have put a better foot forward than he has thus far in preseason action. In roughly two and a half quarters’ worth of play, with the first-team offense (against Carolina) and the third-team offense (in Cleveland), Peterman has completed 17 of 20 passes for 231 yards with two touchdowns and one (not-entirely-his-fault) turnover. That’s good for a quarterback rating of 127.3.
This competition was always Peterman v. McCarron, with Allen’s progress (or lack thereof) serving as the wild card. Allen is playing well, and has kept himself in the conversation as a result. But even before the injury, McCarron had fallen behind Peterman, and not just because of Peterman’s near-perfect performance. Peterman had looked sharper and more in command of the offense, and most importantly, offered some extra juice in terms of escapability and playmaking outside of the pocket.
Right now, it’s easy to argue that the Week 1 starting job in Baltimore is Peterman’s to lose. Allen needs a shot with the first-team offense to truly round out the evaluation, and we all know that it’s only a matter of time before Allen takes over the starting job, hopefully permanently. But it’d be a tough sell to argue that Allen has outplayed Peterman in preseason action. Peterman has been quite good.
There’s no reason to get ahead of ourselves here; the Bills won’t be doing that to themselves, either. The starting job is (probably) now a Peterman-or-Allen proposition, and a week from tomorrow, both will likely see time with the first-team offense in their most important exhibition performance yet.