Following the 2019 NFL Draft and post-undrafted free-agent signing period, yours truly declared that former University at Buffalo quarterback Tyree Jackson was one of four UDFAs with the best chance to make the Buffalo Bills’ roster—either due to positional need or ability. In said article, I wrote that, despite Jackson’s lack of polish at the position, he was physically similar to Josh Allen and deserved to be developed as the team’s third quarterback. At the time, I think most fans of the team would have agreed with me. However, with three straight “subpar” preseason outings, many have all but given up on the young man’s development and aren’t even willing to sign him to the team’s practice squad. I’m here to tell them that they’re wrong.
If it seems like Jackson's overwhelmed to start his pro career, that was a completely foreseen development. Coming out of a smaller college like UB, Jackson was not afforded the same type of development and adversity offered to similar peers like Missouri’s Drew Lock or Duke’s Daniel Jones. UB Head Coach Lance Leipold runs an aggressive yet simplistic passing attack that is designed to compete in the MAC conference not, say, the SEC. That level of competition also cuts both ways—MAC defenses don’t nearly reach the same level of complexity of the Power 5 conferences, let alone the NFL, leaving Jackson unprepared and unable to diagnose more complex coverages.
The fact that the former junior was a developmental prospect at best was not a secret in the run up to the draft. Scouting reports of Jackson acknowledged that he was a major work-in-progress, of which patience would be required. NFL.com’s scouting report of Jackson carried a quote from a scout who described Jackson as, “a project, but he can move a little bit and his arm is really, really good. He’s a draft and develop guy.” TheDraftNetwork.com said of Jackson that, “you like the highlight reel, but the full game tape needs a lot of correcting and a lot more consistency.”
Let’s now talk about the practice or “development” that Jackson has received since joining the Bills. In an NFL training camp, starting quarterbacks receive dozens of snaps encompassing drills and various scrimmage situations. Backup quarterbacks receive about half of those, leaving the third-string quarterback, maybe, a handful of live reps each day. That’s not very much practice time for a quarterback who needs as much maturation as he can get. Even the preseason games haven’t offered much experience. Over three preseason games, Jackson has dropped back to pass approximately 25 times, accompanied by the second- or third-string offensive linemen. Despite all this adversity, if you put on the tape of Jackson’s snaps against the Detroit Lions on Saturday, it was arguably his best preseason outing as a passer and decision maker. He was simply let down by his receivers, who dropped several passes, and a run game that wasn’t getting any traction.
NFL teams are permitted to have ten players on their practice squad during the season, and while there are more obvious fits such as cornerback Cam Lewis or linebacker Tyrel Dodson, the Bills should absolutely look to stash their 6’7”, 249-lb rookie passer and get him where he needs to be by next season.