The Buffalo Bills have a problem at the quarterback position.
This seems to have been the consensus coming into the 2018 NFL season, and it has been the primary issue facing the Bills in the 21 seasons since Jim Kelly ended his Hall-of-Fame career. More often than not, the problem has been that the Bills don’t have anyone playing well enough at the position to warrant any sort of comfort.
So far this preseason, the Bills seem to have the opposite issue—two of the three quarterbacks on the roster are playing fantastic football. Rookie Josh Allen has garnered the most attention, which is no surprise. When a franchise drafts you seventh overall, every pass you throw is bound to attract more buzz, positive or negative, than anyone else. But after Allen’s second preseason appearance, a 9-for-13 evening that included a beautiful touchdown pass while playing against a mix of starters and reserves for the Cleveland Browns, the hype train seems to be pulling full-steam into Allen’s station.
The oft-maligned rookie has now completed 18-of-32 passes in his first preseason, a 56% rate, for 176 yards, 2 touchdowns, and a 92.7 quarterback rating. He has looked poised in the pocket, and he has also shown great mobility, rushing for 47 yards on 6 carries. He has looked so impressive that many have forgotten about the other quarterback playing well this summer, Nathan Peterman.
Peterman has only thrown 3 incomplete passes in his 2 games. One of those passes hit its intended target, Chris Ivory, in the chest before it was intercepted by a diving Shaq Thompson of the Carolina Panthers. In total, Peterman is 17-of-20, an 85% rate, for 231 yards, 2 touchdowns, and the aforementioned unlucky interception. His quarterback rating is 127.3, which is tops among all quarterbacks who have thrown 20 passes so far this preseason.
If you had asked me a month ago about starting Peterman in games that counted, I’d have told you it was a terrible idea. As a rookie, Peterman was mostly a disaster, completing 25-of-52 passes for 266 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions (stats include playoffs). He was better in the preseason last year (43-of-79, 453 yards, 1 touchdown, 75.2 rating), but his numbers were far from Earth-shattering. Even positive reports from training camp this summer couldn’t sway me from my position. Peterman was a backup, a subpar one at that, and nothing more.
However, watching him in these two games has changed my perspective a bit. He looks to be in command of the offense, and he has improved in some areas of weakness. His arm will never be mistaken for Allen’s, but it does appear that he has added some velocity, and he has enough mobility to make plays with his legs when things fall apart around him. He thrived against Carolina via the same formula that was successful for him at times last season—when his read was open on his third or fifth step, the ball came out and he completed passes. His problem last year was that, when that read wasn’t open, or it merely appeared to be open, he lacked the confidence to quickly move to his next read and the arm strength to jam the ball into tight windows.
Peterman may very well be a below-average quarterback. He may not develop into a legitimate NFL starter, and he may struggle once the opposition begins game planning for Buffalo’s offense with him at the helm. He needs to prove that he can consistently complete passes down the field, thereby loosening the tight coverage that gave him fits last season.
However, all of that is pure speculation at this point. What has actually transpired is what’s worth noting, and what has actually transpired is that Peterman has been fantastic so far in 2018. He’s already looked more comfortable throwing downfield, giving me hope for his continued growth in that regard. Josh Allen may be the future at quarterback, and he is certainly putting pressure on the coaching staff to accelerate their plan for his development in the present. However, Nathan Peterman is providing quality competition right now, seemingly providing the Bills with at least two solid passers in 2018. If reports regarding AJ McCarron’s injury are accurate, that could prevent the veteran from showing that he is the third competent quarterback on Buffalo’s current roster.
Soon, Sean McDermott will have to decide which one will open the season as the starter for the team, and given the strong performances Allen and Peterman have turned in so far, he might have trouble deciding which of the two has earned the nod.
And that is a very good problem for the Buffalo Bills to have.