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State of the Buffalo Bills roster: with Josh Allen, training camp could open the door

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The rookie’s development is exciting, but patience is essential

Jacksonville Jaguars v Buffalo Bills Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen was by no means perfect in 2018, but he definitely showed flashes of incredible ability throughout his rookie season. The promise of youth, especially with a player whose ceiling is as high as Allen’s, has provided much more optimism than a player who had already reached his ceiling in Tyrod Taylor.

Our annual “State of the Bills roster” series continues with a look at the most important position in the game—a position where the Bills hope they have finally found the right person. All statistics and snap counts are courtesy of profootballreference.com, and all contract and financial data comes from Spotrac.


Josh Allen

  • Contract status for 2019: Signed; $4,814,326 cap hit ($17,331,577 dead cap hit if cut)
  • Age: Turned 23 on 5/21/19
  • 2018 playing time: 12 games (11 starts), 719 snaps (67.89% of offensive total)
  • Key 2018 statistics: 169/320 (52.8%), 2,074 yards, 10 TDs, 12 INTs, 89 carries, 631 yards, 8 TDs, 67.9 rating, 52.3 QBR, 28 sacks, 8 fumbles

Buffalo pinned its hopes on Allen in April, sending pick 12, pick 53, and pick 56 in the 2018 NFL Draft to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, moving up to select the Wyoming product at number seven overall. General manager Brandon Beane was aggressive in making sure that he drafted “his guy,” and Allen delivered quite a bit of hope in his rookie season.

The young quarterback was expected to sit for much of his first year, similar to what the Kansas City Chiefs did with Patrick Mahomes. Of course, the Chiefs had Alex Smith keeping the seat warm, and the Bills had Nathan Peterman, who lasted all of one half as the starting quarterback of the team before Allen took the reins. Looking just as raw as advertised early on, Allen struggled, completing 75-of-139 passes (53.96%) for 832 yards, two touchdowns, and five interceptions over his first six games. Allen had a quarterback rating of 61.8 over that time, and he took 21 sacks. He also ran for 155 yards and three touchdowns on 35 attempts.

In his sixth game, he injured his throwing elbow against the Houston Texans. This was a blessing for two reasons—first, the injury wasn’t serious, but secondly, it gave Allen time to sit and watch the game from the sidelines. After he returned from the injury, he took a clear step forward. While the accuracy was still an issue, as Allen completed 94-of-181 passes (51.93%), he was much better overall. Allen threw eight touchdowns and seven interceptions, and he totaled 1,242 yards in those final six games. His quarterback rating went up, although it was still low (72.6), but he only took seven sacks in those six games. Most impressively, Allen carried the ball 54 times for 476 yards and five touchdowns, establishing himself as the team’s leading rusher on the season.

Allen definitely has some warts to his game—he isn’t always accurate, he often tries to make way too much happen, and he does not shy away from contact as a rusher—but his progress throughout the year was incredibly encouraging.

Matt Barkley

  • Contract status for 2019: Signed; $1.74 million cap hit in 2019
  • Age: 28 (29 on 9/8/19)
  • 2018 playing time: 1 game (1 start), 73 snaps (6.89% of offensive total)
  • Key 2018 statistics: 15/25 (60%), 232 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT, 117.4 rating, 84.7 QBR, 1 sack

And the best game by a Buffalo quarterback in 2018 goes to...a player the team had signed eleven days prior to that first and only start. Barkley dismantled the New York Jets on the road—his state line above notes that one fantastic performance. For his troubles, Barkley earned himself a two-year contract extension, which will keep him as Josh Allen’s backup through the 2020 season.

Barkley had been released by the Cincinnati Bengals in September with an injury designation, and the Bills essentially plucked him off the couch to replace an injured Allen and Derek Anderson; he was tapped to start over an ineffective Nathan Peterman, and he made the most of his opportunity. Barkley is what you want in a backup—he can come in and perform in a pinch, and he is a team-oriented guy who will gladly help Allen along in his development.

Tyree Jackson

  • Contract status for 2019: Signed a multi-year UDFA contract; $500k cap hit in 2019
  • Age: 28 (29 on 9/8/19)
  • 2018 playing time: 14 games for University at Buffalo
  • Key 2018 statistics: 225/407 (55.3%), 3131 yards, 28 TD, 12 INT, 136.7 rating, 55 rushes, 161 yards (2.9 YPC), 7 rushing TDs for University at Buffalo

While many expected a team to take a flyer on the athletic quarterback who declared a year early for the NFL Draft, Jackson went undrafted and signed as a priority free agent with the Bills to stay in Buffalo. He is very raw as a prospect, and will likely need some seasoning as a 53-man roster stash who doesn’t see the 46-man game day roster or as a member of the practice squad. He has all the physical tools to be a successful NFL quarterback but can he get the mechanics perfected?


Offseason Outlook

The Bills went into the offseason with Allen, Barkley, and Derek Anderson. When Buffalo signed Jackson, Anderson went back to the family life and retired for a second time. With the wagon clearly hitched to Allen, the depth chart is not going to change unless there is an injury. The biggest question at the position is whether or not Jackson can play his way onto the roster during the preseason.