In this year’s class of prized rookie NFL quarterbacks, there is no prospect more intriguing than Josh Allen. To listen to some talent evaluators, he could be the next Carson Wentz. Or he could be the next JaMarcus Russell, to listen to others.
The Buffalo Bills might begin finding out sooner than expected which it will be.
The Bills’ quarterback situation was thrown into disarray when AJ McCarron reportedly suffered a hairline fracture of his right collarbone during Friday’s preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. A three-way competition among McCarron, Nathan Peterman and Allen for the Bills’ starting quarterback job entering the regular season seemingly now becomes a two-way tussle among Peterman and Allen.
That does not necessarily mean that Allen, taken with the No. 7 overall selection of the NFL draft in April, will be the Bills’ Week 1 starter. But it does move him that much closer to the assignment. Coach Sean McDermott’s only alternative is Peterman, the second-year pro who had a five-interception first half in the first of his two NFL starts last season.
The Bills reached the playoffs last season with Tyrod Taylor as their quarterback but opted to remake the position by trading Taylor to the Browns. They moved up in the draft to get Allen as their quarterback of the future but gave themselves a potential placeholder by adding McCarron, the former backup to Andy Dalton in Cincinnati.
There was every reason to believe that McCarron, before this injury, would have emerged as the starter going into the season. He is relatively well regarded around the league. And that would have kept the Bills from asking too much, too soon of Allen.
Allen’s size, athleticism and dazzling arm strength remind some of Wentz, the former No. 2 overall draft choice by the Philadelphia Eagles who might have been the league’s MVP last season as a second-year pro if not for his December knee injury.
But Allen’s physical traits do not guarantee NFL success. He was just a 56 percent passer during his college career at Wyoming. Of the four quarterbacks drafted in the top 10 in April — Baker Mayfield by the Browns, Sam Darnold by the New York Jets, Allen by the Bills and Josh Rosen by the Arizona Cardinals — Allen was regarded by some observers as the least polished and least NFL-ready. He would need time to develop, those observers believed, and only then could it be fairly determined whether his physical tools would lead to NFL stardom.
Allen looked good during Friday’s game, and the temptation for the Bills now will be to turn to Allen as the starter and see what he can do. It is not known at this point how long McCarron will be sidelined.
But the Bills must be careful. This must be a decision based on Allen’s readiness, not on the lack of good alternatives. This must be about Allen’s long-term development and whether that would be aided — or perhaps harmed — by being thrown into regular season competition so soon.
Before Friday night, it appeared that Darnold had a great chance to emerge as the Jets’ season-opening starter and that Mayfield, Allen and Rosen could only hope for the same. Now, things have changed quickly and dramatically for Allen and the Bills.
The Bills have an interesting decision to make.
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