It’s not a real game week for the Bills, but Sean McDermott wants Josh Allen to treat this week like one.
That’s why the Bills announced on Monday Allen would start Sunday against the Bengals after holding the starter’s identity for the first two preseason games like a military secret.
“We really wanted for him to go through a routine of what it would be like for a normal, regular season week dealing with the potential distractions and all that goes with the quarterback position and learning how to balance that,” McDermott said. “AJ’s (McCarron) been through that before, naturally. Nate’s [Peterman] been through it as well, so this was an opportunity as well for Josh for his first time.”
McDermott said the reps in practice will reflect a regular season week, but would not confirm that Allen will be with the first team all week in practice. The Bills head coach also stopped short of saying Allen could win the starting job with a good performance Sunday against the Bengals.
Allen doesn’t seem to mind.
“I’m not going out there to prove why I’m the starter,” Allen said. “I’m going out there to play football, move the chains, put points on the board and help this offense in whatever way I can.”
“It’s just him dipping his toes in the water, if you will, of what that looks like on the field and off the field,” McDermott said. “How he handles his teammates, how he handles the meetings, how he handles the interviews. That’s all part of, as we all know, what comes with that starting quarterback position, even in the preseason. It’ll be a good experience for him in that regard.”
Allen’s improved accuracy–compared to college–has been noted by many around the league. He said improving his mechanics is a “team effort”. Allen worked with quarterback coach Jordan Palmer over the summer. The coaches in Buffalo help him now.
“Every day before practice, I go out with (Bills offensive assistant) Shea (Tierney) and coach (Brian) Daboll and we work on some base drill,” Allen said. “Just try and get as many throws in as I can. The more repititions I get, the better.”
Allen thinks when he’s flowing smoothly and feels more confident that leads to better accuracy. He says every quarterback has a key–keeping the head still, feet, toes, etc.–that becomes the focus.
“Every quarterback goes through different things,” Allen said. “Who knows. Once I fix one thing, then another thing might break out and we’ll try to fix that. We’re just going to continue to work on it as much as we can.”
AJ McCarron did return to practice on a limited basis Wednesday. He did handoffs and some light throwing with other quarterbacks during the period of practice viewed by media, but sat out throwing drills to receivers.
For now, only Nate Peterman remains to replace Allen on Sunday. McDermott would not give away when Peterman would get in the game and if he would play with first teamers, citing “strategy” concerns.
However, McCarron has not been ruled out for the contest against the Bengals.
“I want to see how he looks today and feels. Certainly, we’ll communicate on that, AJ and I, our trainer and move forward one day at a time,” McDermott said.
Though McDermott said Allen’s start is part of the plan for the rookie’s development, he also said Allen has “earned” this opportunity.
Getting a preseason start is a notable hurdle for Allen to clear, considering the mountain of questions and criticism the draft pick received from the football world. McDermott complimented how Allen has handled the negativity and that he continues to put team first.
“Some of those scars, proverbial scars, if you will, also make people better and stronger as they go through by learning from those situations,” McDermott said. “I think we’ve all been through some of those moments where people have said some things, doubted us along our careers, and if you handle those things the right way, it can be a strength down the road.”
Allen says the only people he cares about pleasing are the guys in the locker room and the “higher-ups that put their neck on the line” to draft him.
Sunday will just be another step in his growth.
“It’s just another game of going out and playing football,” Allen said. “The game hasn’t changed. The guys that play this game are a little bigger, a little faster. But, the dimensions are the same. Still a game of football.”
Ryan Groy will get the start at center Sunday, but McDermott says that competition remains open.
LeSean McCoy was limited on Wednesday with a groin and hip injury. Dion Dawkins, Trent Murphy and Kyle Williams were among the notable players who did not practice. Dawkins sustained a hip injury in Monday’s practice, according to McDermott.