Bills rookie quarterback Josh Allen appears close to making a return to the playing field. Back practicing with his teammates this week, the possibility exists for him to be back in the starting lineup on Sunday, or at the very latest against Jacksonville following the bye week.
As excited as Allen might be to be participating and throwing the ball again, he might be more anxious to employ some of the things he picked up from veteran QB Derek Anderson in the three weeks he’s been watching someone else take the snaps in games.
“I got to see how D.A. operated. That’s a true pro right there,” said Allen of Anderson. “He’s been around the league a long time. Just kind of how he controlled the walk through. How he talked to guys and inspired them to play. That and how he kind of saw things on the field, the reads he made and how quick he got to his checkdown and other small things like that.”
When Anderson replaced Allen in the lineup, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll came down from the coach’s booth to call plays from the sidelines on game days. It enabled him to talk one-on-one with Anderson knowing he was new to the scheme.
Allen took advantage of listening in on the conversations that Anderson and Daboll had between series.
“Anytime Daboll and D.A. sat down next to each other I was right behind them with my ear and it was good to listen to them communicate and the way they saw things on the Surface Pros and how they broke things down,” Allen told Buffalobills.com. “Then they’d talk about the next series. That series is done, what can we expect them to do the next time we go out.”
Allen also took time to self-critique his game. When he left the lineup in Week 6, Allen had become a bit hesitant to throw on occasion and chose to tuck the ball and run, rather than wait an extra half-second in the pocket to deliver a pass downfield. But he felt he was making progress, which is what made the injury so frustrating.
“I felt the last two games I played in I was playing good football, putting the ball where it needed to be and making the right decisions,” he said. “Keeping the ball out of harm’s way and we saw ourselves win against the Titans and we were in the game late against Houston. Things were just starting to slow down for me, so I’m anxious to get back out there and see if that can continue. With the help of Daboll and D.A. and the guys we have in the room I think it will.”
Before he was cleared to throw, Allen didn’t just watch the other quarterbacks execute the plays in practice for the game plan that week. He executed them 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
It’s an idea he came up with himself. Stand 15 yards behind where the play is being run in practice directly behind the quarterback participating in practice. Get an equipment guy to snap you a ball right when the first team offense in front of him is doing the same thing. Execute a drop back in step with the QB in front of him and make a decision about the coverage and where to go with the ball.
For Allen it was a better rep for him than just a mental one.
“Just finding a way to stay engaged. That’s one of the ways you can do it,” he said. “I was running the exact same thing they were running, just by myself. But I got to see the same things and go through my reads and still stay engaged.”
Though it’s just been three weeks that Allen has been on the shelf, his teammates see a change in his approach.
“He looked more confident. He got to sit back and watch after he got thrown in the fire and had to play,” said Ray-Ray McCloud. “I think he was able to analyze everything and how it’s moving. I feel like he’s a lot more confident and is showing a lot more leadership.
“He’s been more vocal. His poise in the pocket and in the huddle is better. You can tell he’s calmed things down (in his head). He was giving us some energy too to pick things up in practice. You can tell he’s been paying attention while he’s had to sit and watch.”
McCloud even thinks he’s improved his passing touch based on the length and depth of the route the receiver is running.
“Honestly the ball is coming out a little smoother. Before, as a young guy, everything he threw was at the same speed,” McCloud told Buffalobills.com. “Now he’s putting passes in different spots where it’s easy for you to catch and only you to catch. That’s an area where he’s grown.”
Allen felt the timing with the receivers in the passing game is already coming back after two limited practices for him.
As frustrated as he was to be sidelined by injury, Allen feels some of the lessons he’s learned by watching Anderson, and seeing the game from a new vantage point, will make him a better player when he returns to the lineup.
“I don’t think it’s affected me negatively at all,” he said of his elbow injury. “I think it was a blessing in disguise. I got to see a vet come in and really control the offense the way it needs to be controlled. I got to see that, learn and sit back and experience a primetime game without having to go through it. It’ll definitely help out in the long run.”