It's still not real football. OTA practices are performed in helmets and shorts, but don't tell that to the coaches and teammates observing quarterback Josh Allen on the field in May.
"I'm just enamored with Josh and the strides that he's taken and seeing him become a pro and the passes and the throws he's making. It's next level," said DE Eddie Yarbrough. "I'm truly excited to see his second season because it's… grab your popcorn."
On the field the growth of Allen's game is obvious. He has a firm grasp of the offensive system. He's decisive with where he is going with the ball and his ball location is demonstrably improved from his rookie year.
"I've been impressed with his methodical work ethic and approach," said head coach Sean McDermott. "It seems like he understands the work that he has to do and we have to do this offseason to get us to where we're trying to get to as a football team. And then offensively as well. He's done a great job."
"Being in the same system for a year, having the verbiage down, having the same terminology, having the rapport that I do with Coach (Brian) Daboll, it's been a huge help," said Allen. "It's a complete 180 feeling from last year to this year. Obviously, having the year of experience under my belt now and being around the guys in the locker room and having such good relationships in here and going out on the practice field and being able to talk a little bit to the defense and have them talk to us back. At the same time, we are just trying to make each other better and trying to win football games for the Bills."
Allen's level of comfort in leading has enabled him to relate well to teammates on both sides of the ball. His easygoing nature has been well received by his teammates.
"One of the major things I've seen in his growth as the quarterback and leader of this team is how he carries himself," said Zay Jones. "He's truly a franchise quarterback. When he speaks, we listen. He runs the huddle really well. He has a great eye and knack for the game. He handles a lot of the things on the field well. He gives checks and calls. If he wants to put a double move on something, or if he sees something in the defense he doesn't like he communicates it. So definitely he's done a great job of becoming that leader and really has in my opinion taken a good step in the OTAs so far."
Allen isn't shy in pulling a receiver aside to ensure that a certain play concept can be more effectively executed. In week two of OTA practices, he pulled Jones over after a play didn't go very well to sync up their thinking.
"I ran a route and Josh said that he was waiting on me," said Jones. "He felt we could do it a better way. He told me, 'Instead of doing it that way, do it this way so I'm able to see your body language when you're coming out (of your break) and I can put it on you.' I told him it made perfect sense. So we walked through it. He played the DB and I went and did my route, just to make sure it was how he wanted it. He said it was perfect, so now we go out and there's no second guessing and we're thinking the same."
Despite just turning 23-years old, Allen knows that chemistry on the field is only enhanced by a strong relationship off it. He's worked hard to build bonds with players whether they were on the roster with him last year or are new to the team.
"It's been well documented Josh putting his arms around some of the players that we did sign through free agency, some of our draft picks," Yarbrough said. "And I think that's a great quality to have in terms of the humility that Josh possesses and his DNA and the way he was raised, and so that's the first step of leadership a lot of times."
"We have to develop these relationships off the field and kind of get to know each other so when you get on the football field you trust one another, and you can go win football games," Allen said.
Just winning football games.
It's what Allen has been about since he arrived in Buffalo. Sure there is a long list of other things that Buffalo's quarterback has to be mindful of and address as a leader on the team, but it seems when he keeps winning games at the top of his responsibility pyramid he's at his best.
"That's a good thing to have is a 'just win' method," said Daboll. "You have to have that from your quarterback. But his preparation habits… even how he is around the building, from the training staff, to the cafeteria workers to the people in the weight room to the equipment guys. It's not just the players, he's the face of a franchise. And there's a lot that goes with that, particularly when you're a young guy and picked as high as he was.
"I think that his mindset, is to get better every day. And you know he's got good leadership. Good ability. He's a good guy to work with. Happy we have him."