Friday’s game against the Detroit Lions may be the penultimate game of the preseason, but for many starters across the league it will be the last time we see them until Week 1 of the regular season.
Meaning this will most likely be Josh Allen and the first team offense’s final game action before the team opens the regular season in New York against the Jets.
In limited playing time this preseason, Allen has been productive in taking what the defense is giving him. Last week, Allen completed nine of 11 passes for 102 yards in just two drives and impressed the Carolina defense in their joint practices last week.
“Well, we put points on the board, obviously we’d like to end that first drive with six points and not three,” Allen said. “That day we took what they gave us, that was what we were trying to work on and we’re trying to improve on that every day.”
Improvement has been a constant theme of the Bills organization this offseason. Whether it has been opening up a state-of-the-art training facility or upgrading talent on the roster via in free agency or trading up in the draft, the Bills have aggressively made moves with the hopes of improving on last year’s 6-10 record.
This preseason, Allen is working on making the right reads and progressing through them faster. He’s taking the steps a quarterback needs to in year two but he’ll be the first one to say he has a long way to go.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m at any point that I need to be at all,” Allen said. “There’s still a lot of work that I got to do and continue getting better. The team’s getting better and I’m getting better. That’s all I can ask for, really.”
This preseason things are different from his rookie season. He’s entering Week 3 of the preseason as the starting quarterback and not competing for first-team reps with two other quarterbacks.
Allen is more confident knowing his role is secure. Play-calling by offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has given Allen more opportunities to throw this preseason. Buffalo has thrown the ball on 17 of 19 plays, when Allen is on the field.
Daboll says it is not based on his game plan for the upcoming season. Daboll wants to see what his offense can do because how defenses play in practice versus a competitive situation is different.
“There’s nothing like live reps,” Allen said. “I appreciate what he’s doing and how he’s helped me progress along so far. We’re working to become the best version of ourselves that we can every day.”
Daboll’s offense went into empty personnel sets multiple times with Allen at quarterback against Carolina. According to Sharp Football Stats, the offense went without a running back and tight end one percent of the time last season.
Now, Allen has a different supporting cast. Wide receivers like John Brown and Cole Beasley have become instant starters and bring experience to a receiving group that was lacking it last year.
Beasley and Allen are already off to a hot start. The two connected five times against Carolina and Beasley is tied for the team lead in receptions (6) this preseason.
“I think we’re getting better at reading each other,” Allen said. “Looking at different routes and different situations and asking him what he would do in certain situations and him asking me where I would put the ball. We’re going to develop. In the game it was pretty nice, but we have a long ways to go.”
Allen has been able to adapt to whatever personnel has been put around him. He’s formed a quick connection with Tommy Sweeney as his top tight end the past two weeks.
Sweeney might be getting some relief in Friday’s game against Detroit. Tight ends Jason Croom and Dawson Knox both returned to the practice field as full participants this week and hope to play in Detroit after each dealt with a hamstring injury.
“It’s just a different flow from the offense when they’re in there and it’s fun to have them back,” Allen said.
Scroll through to see the best photos from Buffalo's practice on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019.
The Bills offensive line will certainly have their hands full on Friday. Buffalo is still trying to work out its starting five offensive linemen, says Daboll, and the Bills are going against one of the NFL’s premier defensive fronts. The Detroit Lions defensive line features Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara at defensive end plus Damon Harrison Sr., A’Shawn Robinson and Mike Daniels at defensive tackle.
The pieces are now around Allen but Daboll has stressed how it’s going to take more than Allen to see an improved offense this season.
“You need 10 guys around you to play quarterback,” Daboll said. “So, protection comes into play with that, getting open comes into play with that. It takes everybody. He needs to do his job well, which is making the appropriate read or getting us out of a particular play and then throwing it to the right guy. That’s what he can control and he has to have trust in his teammates that they’re doing the right things.”
“The line has done a good job with the pocket and the receivers, when they have gotten man-to-man coverage, have gotten open. So, he needs to just take what they give him and make the appropriate read. He’s going to continue to work on that. There’s a lot of variables that go into moving the football and all of those other things. He’s done a good job this camp.”