Sean McDermott was asked Wednesday where he thinks Josh Allen’s development ranks in terms of his football concerns this season.
“I’d say it’s at the top of the list,” he answered.
There’s no doubt the jury is still very much out on Allen’s ability to be a high level NFL passer. He’s a great runner and has shown extended flashes as a thrower, but that’s it.
McDermott’s first two coaching stops were blessed with solid to very good franchise quarterbacks. He thinks the Bills are on a similar path.
“I’ve been around some quarterbacks who started off very much like Josh has, who have developed and played at a high level in Donovan McNabb and Cam Newton,” McDermott said. “That takes time. In particular, at the quarterback position.”
To be fair, the Newton comparison might not quite work. The former Panthers star passed for 4000 and 3800 yards his first two seasons, while Allen barely topped 3000 last year. The underlying stats–things like yards per attempt and net yards per attempt–were also significantly better his first two seasons.
Newton’s early production was good enough to make his progression more of a flat line with his MVP season in 2015 as a “career” year. That’s not the direction the Bills want Allen to head.
McNabb, on the other hand, might be a very good model for Allen. The Eagles star struggled through a partial rookie season before improving to 3300 yards, 21 TDs and 13 interceptions during an 11-5 sophomore year.
His passing numbers took a while before reaching a “prolific” status. McNabb did not top 25 TD passes or complete 60% of his passes until his sixth NFL season (he was on pace for more than 25 touchdowns during year four, but played only ten games). Allen’s 5.7 adjusted yards per attempt last year were better than each of McNabb’s first five seasons in that category.
McNabb’s Eagles also never won less than 11 games during years two through six of his career. It’s not hard to imagine Allen similarly improving incrementally for the next 2-3 years while piloting a superb roster than stacks wins in bunches.
The general take on the 2020 Bills around the NFL is that the roster is stacked and Allen will be the only thing that could hold this team back. McDermott did not disagree.
“That’s understandable. Until you’re able to silence that, it’s going to continue to come up,” he said.
There’s another reason McDermott should be worried about Allen and it has very little to do with the Bills quarterback himself.
Brandon Beane has done such good work with the roster that the Bills have options should projected starters get injured or regress. Already, a Jon Feliciano injury has not ruined the offensive line. Cody Ford, Darryl Williams and Evan Boehm were already on the roster as decent short term replacements. Adding Brian Winters only enriches Buffalo’s choices.
If Devin Singletary went down, Zack Moss seems capable of handling a big workload. A Stefon Diggs injury would still leave the very capable John Brown/Cole Beasley/Dawson Knox receiving group from last year. There a myriad of options along the defensive line. A.J. Klein could admirably step in for a Tremaine Edmunds or Matt Milano issue.
Maybe only a Tre’Davious White injury would cause the Bills a major problem.
That’s not the case at quarterback and it’s no knock on Beane. Finding one capable quarterback is difficult enough in the NFL, let alone two. If Allen doesn’t develop, Matt Barkley is the only reasonable option. The Bills top backup isn’t terrible, but he’s also no Nick Foles.
The good news is Allen is doing everything he can outside fixing the physical issues. McDermott raved about his intangibles and how he’s developed as a leader inside the organization. He says Allen has done all the right things in the offseason to get ready.
“It’s been fun to watch Josh put in the work in the offseason to develop his game,” McDermott said.
Hopefully for the Bills, it’s enough to let McDermott rest easy.