1 - NBC analyst thinks Josh Allen has ‘elite traits’
In the past four weeks alone, rookie quarterback Josh Allen has shown discernible development, making considerable strides toward becoming an established starting passer.
Since returning from an elbow injury in Week 12, the Buffalo signal-caller has completed 57 passes for 801 yards and four touchdowns. Abusing the opposition on the ground has also become a key part of Allen’s game, as he’s rushed for 351 yards since making his return.
Allen’s progression was perhaps most evident in Buffalo’s Week 15 win over the Lions. Detroit forced the athletic passer to play from the pocket, often keeping a spy on the passer who had constructed back-to-back 100-rushing yard outings.
The subtraction of his mobility did not harm Allen, however. The lack of running lanes did not intimidate him. Instead, he took his time and progressed through his reads, ultimately completing 13 passes for 204 yards and one score. For the first time of his professional career, Allen was forced to play as a pure pocket passer, and he was up for the challenge.
Allen has made obvious progress throughout his rookie season, something that has made fans and analysts alike excited for his future. NBC Sports analyst Chris Simms feels as though Allen’s physical gifts are second to none, something that could allow him to develop into one of the league’s premier passers.
“He has elite traits…his ability to run…we haven’t seen anybody do some of the things he’s done,” Simms said during an appearance on NBC’s Football Night in America. “So every week he’s answered the bell there and then we’ve seen some of his arm talent. He has the kind of strength in his arm like a Patrick Mahomes or an Aaron Rodgers…so the future is bright. They just need to get some weapons around him in Buffalo.”
2 - Matt Barkley a valuable support system for Allen
When Josh Allen snuck past the first down marker on a late fourth-and-one in Buffalo’s Week 15 contest with the Lions, he wasn’t even the most excited quarterback on the field.
Matt Barkley leapt for joy on the sideline as his fellow passer sealed the Buffalo victory.
Barkley’s time with the Bills has been somewhat unique. The veteran inked a one-year deal with the team on Oct. 31 and was named their starting quarterback just 11 days later. Barkley turned the audition into a permanent job, passing for 232 yards and two scores in Buffalo’s Week 10 rout of the Jets.
Barkley hasn’t seen the field since his spot start, as rookie quarterback Josh Allen returned from his elbow injury in Week 12. Since then, the 28-year-old has transitioned into a mentorship role, somebody who has used his six years of NFL experience to help Allen adjust to the NFL level.
Barkley’s team-first attitude and desire to see Allen succeed has made him an incredible support system for the rookie, according to head coach Sean McDermott.
“To have that outlook, he has a daily, call it joy, I guess, about him,” McDermott said. “A presence, an energy about him, a positive vibe where he roots for Josh. I think there was a clip that people caught on the sideline on the fourth-and-one at the end of the game. That says a lot about Matt and the way he was raised.
“What he’s added to this point, I know what he did with the Jets week there, but also just as important is what he does when he’s not on the field, and how he supports. He’s very unselfish in his approach. That’s how you build a football team, with unselfish guys that put the team first and are happy when somebody else has success.”
3 - Keith Ford: A dream to learn from McCoy, Ivory
For children who grow up with aspirations of playing in the NFL, one day sharing the field with their heroes is a goal that motivates them to continue their grind, to keep putting in countless hours of work.
In his rookie season, Buffalo running back Keith Ford has had the privilege of practicing alongside two of his idols, players who have shaped the way he plays the game.
The undrafted ball carrier joined a backfield that included LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory upon signing with the Bills after the conclusion of the 2018 draft. Over the past eight months, Ford has learned a great deal from McCoy and Ivory, with the six-time 1,000-yard rusher, in particular, having an enormous impact on his game.
“Learning from [McCoy], a vet that’s been in the league 10 years, and just watching him prepare, watching him work,” Ford said. “How he finishes cuts. He’s coaching me, and it’s a blessing. I only dreamed of being in the same room as LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory. Just a group of guys that are good people and work hard.”
It was the countless lessons that he learned from McCoy and Ivory that propelled Ford to a strong debut outing. Just four days after being promoted from the practice squad, the 24-year-old suited up for Buffalo in its Week 15 contest with the Lions. Injuries to the team’s primary three backs prompted Ford to see considerable playing time, and he answered the call, rushing for 46 yards on 14 carries.
Ford has become an amalgamation of the invaluable lessons his teammates have taught him, something that has effectively prepared him for regular season action.
“I take a little bit from everybody, offense and defense,” Ford said. “I try to develop a routine that best suits me. Just learning from the vets and picking up things that I never knew.”