From seasoned veterans to rookies, the Bills will see a slew of different quarterbacks this year. Some have had the starting job for years, and some are working to earn it in camp. Here are 10 things you should know about the quarterbacks the Bills will face in 2020.
1. Buffalo could face two former Bills QBs
The Bills will face 13 different teams during the regular season, of those 13 Buffalo is quite familiar with two opposing quarterbacks who could potentially be starters. Not just familiar in that Buffalo has played against these teams, but familiar in that these two quarterbacks have played for the Bills. The two former Bills are Miami's Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tyrod Taylor from the Chargers.
In Week 2 and Week 17, the Bills will face the Dolphins. Miami drafted Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. With Tagovailoa looking healthy, the rookie will eventually be the next starter for the Dolphins. The question that remains, when will he take over? If it takes a few weeks, and if Miami is possibly in the playoff hunt at the end of the season, Buffalo may face Fitzpatrick twice. Fitzpatrick played for the Bills from 2009 to 2012. The QB played in 55 games and threw for 80 touchdowns during his four year career with the Bills. We all know Fitzpatrick is good for at least one FitzMagic moment a year, one with Buffalo being in 2011 when he led the Bills to five straight touchdown drives in a come-from-behind win against the Raiders.
In Week 12 the Bills will host the Los Angeles Chargers. Like Miami, the Chargers also drafted a quarterback in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Justin Herbert was drafted by the Chargers with the sixth overall pick, one pick after the Dolphins. The LA Chargers want Herbert to eventually be the guy, but when will that happen? Herbert should get a chance to start before Week 12, but if things go South in his first year Buffalo may face former Bills QB Tyrod Taylor. Taylor played for the Bills from 2015 to 2017. In his three-year career with the Bills, Taylor played in 44 games and threw for 51 touchdowns. The QB earned a Pro Bowl appearance with the Bills in 2015, and helped Buffalo to its first playoff game after the 17-year drought in 2017.
2. MVP quarterbacks on Bills schedule
Buffalo has one former MVP on its schedule who they will see at New Era Field in Week 6 when the Bills play the Chiefs in a primetime game on Thursday night. Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes won the NFL MVP award in 2018. Mahomes was the youngest player to earn the award since Dan Marino in 1984.
During the 2018 season, Mahomes stretched expectations from a quarterback. The QB's ability extend plays creatively is unlike any quarterback today. Mahomes finished the season completing 66% of his passes for 5,097 yards averaging 8.8 yards per attempt and throwing for 50 touchdowns. That season the Chiefs went 12 and 4 and won the AFC West. A year later they would be crowned Super Bowl Champions.
The Chiefs return many players from their Super Bowl roster, and Mahomes has already been labeled as a 2020 MVP favorite. The last two years, the QB has thrown for 76 touchdowns and only 17 interceptions. Week 6 won't be a cake walk for the Bills, but it also won't be an easy win for the Chiefs. Buffalo's defense is destined to challenge Mahomes and his new age offense.
After making the playoffs in 2019, the Bills have a schedule full of top quarterback talent in 2020. Scroll through for a week-by-week look at the likely starter for each team on Buffalo's schedule this season.
3. Buffalo may face two rookie QBs
Every season the NFL welcomes rookie quarterbacks into the league who could soon be the face of a franchise. This year the Bills will possibly see two, one potentially twice during the regular season. In Week 2 the Bills travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins in what may be Tua Tagovailoa's first game as Miami's new quarterback. Drafted by the Dolphins with the fifth overall pick, Tagovailoa's biggest question entering the NFL is his injury history. The most recent being a hip injury he suffered in November 2019 while playing for Alabama. Last season in the nine games he played, Tagovailoa completed 71.4% of his passes for 2,840 yards. The QB averaged 11.3 yards per attempt and threw for 33 touchdowns with only three interceptions. AFC East quarterbacks will look pretty young once Tagovailoa takes over. He will be in the division with Josh Allen, Sam Darnold and Jarrett Stidham if that's who the Patriots choose to go with.
In Week 12 Buffalo will host the Chargers who have moved on from long-time quarterback Phillip Rivers. The Chargers drafted Justin Herbert with the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Being a top 10 pick, Herbert is obviously who the Chargers want to take over the position, but when is uncertain. Former Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor is also a part of that quarterback room. Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn made it clear in April that the starting job belongs to Taylor and Herbert will compete for the spot. At Oregon in 2019, Herbert was 286 of 428 for 3,471 passing yards completing 66.8% of his passes. He averaged 8.1 yards per attempt and threw for 32 touchdowns, six interceptions.
4. The bounce back QBs
The Bills faced the Steelers last year, but they were without a vital piece in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben spent last season on IR after injuring his elbow in Week 2. Steelers' quarterbacks Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges took over the job, but Roethlisberger is looking ready to go after posting a video of him throwing to his receivers this spring. Roethlisberger started to grow a beard after the injury and claimed he would not shave the beard until he felt like he could truly throw again. Well the beard's gone, so get ready for what he has in store as he enters his 17th season in the NFL. The Bills will play the Steelers at home in Week 14 for some Sunday Night Football action.
This quarterback didn't have quite the climb to being 100% healthy like Roethlisberger did, but he could still have a bounce back season this year. Jets quarterback Sam Darnold had a lot to look forward to in 2019, including offensive weapon Le'Veon Bell. But Darnold never really got into a good rhythm last year. This is partly because the QB missed three games due to mono. In 2019, Darnold struggled at times throwing for 13 interceptions and just 19 touchdowns. As the Jets worked to replenish their offensive line in free agency and the draft while adding more weapons for Darnold, the QB can definitely improve in his third season. The Bills will open their season at home against the Jets and see them again in Week 7.
5. Historic games for opposing QBs vs. Bills
There are some quarterbacks on the Bills schedule who have had some pretty memorable games. Some went in favor of the Bills, and some in favor of the opposing team. One of those teams is Pittsburgh who Buffalo will play in a Week 14 primetime game at home. In this case, what's memorable is the fact that the Bills haven't been able to accomplish this yet. Buffalo beat the Steelers last year, but they have yet to beat Ben Roethlisberger. In 2019, the Bills faced Devlin Hodges in a 17-10 win. Buffalo has played against Big Ben four times but hasn't sealed a victory against him just yet.
The last time the Bills hosted Russell Wilson and the Seahawks was in Toronto during his 2012 rookie season. The game unfortunately wasn't a bright spot in the Bills season. Seattle beat Buffalo 50-17 in a game where Wilson had three rushing touchdowns and one in the air. Former Bill Marshawn Lynch was on the Seahawks and had one rushing touchdown. The Bills have a chance to change the narrative when they host Russell Wilson and company in Week 9.
The last time Buffalo played against Derek Carr was in 2017 where the Bills defense came up big. Buffalo won 34-17, one touchdown coming on a 40-yard fumble return by Bills linebacker Matt Milano. The Bills forced a total of four fumbles that game, one was from kicker Stephen Hauschka. That season Buffalo went on to start 4-0 at home for the first time since 1995. Buffalo's defense has a chance to show its strength again when the Bills travel to face the Raiders in Week 4.
6. The average age of quarterbacks on the Bills schedule
Let's break down the ages of all quarterbacks the Bills will face, including backups for teams who will have a competition at QB.
Sam Darnold – 23
Ryan Fitzpatrick – 37
Tua Tagovailoa – 22
Jared Goff – 25
Derek Carr – 29
Ryan Tannehill – 31
Patrick Mahomes – 24
Jarrett Stidham – 23
Russell Wilson – 31
Kyler Murray – 22
Tyrod Taylor – 30
Justin Herbert – 22
Jimmy Garoppolo – 28
Ben Roethlisberger – 38
Drew Lock – 23
The average age of the 15 quarterbacks is 27 years old. The oldest QB the Bills will face is Ben Roethlisberger. Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Kyler Murray are the three youngest QBs the Bills will play against.
7. The Bills will face these legends
If you look at the Bills schedule of opposing quarterbacks, it's not necessarily loaded with seasoned vets. Buffalo will face quite a few up-and-coming young quarterbacks trying to prove they belong. Legends wise, the Bills will play against two quarterbacks that belong in the conversation - Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson.
Roethlisberger enters his 17th season this year, starting the most games for the Steelers in team history. Big Ben has led the Steelers to two Super Bowl victories in three appearances, four AFC Championships, seven AFC North Championships and nine postseason berths. In 13 of his 16 seasons, Roethlisberger has thrown for at least 3,000 passing yards. In 2018, he threw for a career high 5,129 passing yards and 34 touchdowns.
Wilson has half the experience of Roethlisberger as he enters his ninth year in the league. He has one Super Bowl victory in two appearances, two NFC Championships, two NFC West Championships and seven postseason berths. The Seahawks QB was the first player in NFL history with at least 200 passing touchdowns and 15 rushing touchdowns in his first eight seasons. Wilson set the franchise record for touchdowns in 2018 throwing a career-high 35 touchdowns.
8. A Tom Brady-less AFC East
Yeah, yeah, yeah we all know Tom Brady is no longer in the AFC East. If Jarrett Stidham starts for the Patriots and Tua Tagovailoa for the Dolphins, this means Josh Allen is the oldest starter in the division at the age of 24. Brady spent 20 seasons with the Patriots, that means Allen was four-years-old when Brady entered the NFL. Times are changing in the AFC East, for the first time in a long time. Is the division up for grabs, or does it still belong to New England? For the first time in 11 years, will the title go to another team?
Many national media outlets have their eyes on Buffalo as the favorites to win the division this season. The respect is nice but Bills general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott have made it clear — to be the best, you have to beat the best. Regardless, the landscape of the division looks quite different without one of the best quarterbacks in the league. All four teams are entering an interesting era of a completely new-looking division that could be led by four very young quarterbacks. Some are still in rebuild mode, and some are ready to take the crown.
9. A new wave of NFL quarterbacks?
The era of true pocket-passers in the NFL is winding down as its being taken over by young, dual-threat, athletic quarterbacks. College football always bleeds into the NFL. Now, NFL offenses feature a new wave of quarterbacks. Josh Allen definitely fits into the conversation because of his style of play. Buffalo will face at least three quarterbacks who fit into this scheme including Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson.
When you dive into the stats from 2019, Murray had the second-most rushing yards from a QB with 544 yards. Allen was third with 511 rushing yards, and Wilson sixth with 342 rushing yards. Mahomes had 218 rushing yards which ranked 13th. Although Wilson is entering his ninth season in the NFL, he represented one of the first to bring a style of versatility to the league. Mahomes, Murray and Wilson are very athletic in the way they can beat teams with their arm, feet and mind. The Bills will face Mahomes in Week 6, Murray in Week 10 and Wilson in Week 9. Thankfully this style of play won't completely throw off Buffalo's defense because they get to practice against a pretty athletic QB every week.
10. A close friend to Allen in the AFC East
Just because you're in the same division doesn't mean you have to be enemies, right? Many know by now that Josh Allen and Sam Darnold have a tight friendship. The two are a part of the same draft class from 2018 and were drafted four picks apart from each other. They also share the same offseason coach in Jordan Palmer. Palmer hosted a quarterback summit in 2017, which is how the two first started working out together.
Allen and Darnold spent part of this year's offseason together training with Palmer as planned. When COVID-19 hit the U.S., the two quarantined together in California while they were practicing. No, this doesn't mean Allen is giving all his secrets away. In fact, they believe they push each other to be better quarterbacks.