For eager Bills fans it’s a big deal. For national and Western New York media it’s a big deal. Josh Allen’s first start in Buffalo’s third preseason game is a big deal to just about everyone, but Josh Allen.
“I’m not really thinking of it any differently. It’s an opportunity to go out there and play and work hard,” he said after practice Wednesday. “It’s an exciting time for me. At the same time, I’m just looking to go out there and show my teammates how much I want to win, how hard I want to work and when we get on the field how well I can execute the plays that coach Daboll calls and how much I trust these guys on the field with me.”
In Buffalo’s three-man quarterback competition, what has worked best for Allen is taking an even-keeled approach to anything and everything. Whether it’s a super successful play, like his touchdown pass to Rod Streater at Cleveland last week, or a troubling flaw in his mechanics, Allen has taken every plus and minus in his game in stride.
So, taking the same approach with his first preseason start only makes sense.
Even head coach Sean McDermott got a very measured response from Allen when he informed him he’d be starting on Sunday against Cincinnati.
“It was probably what you would expect. He was what I expected, he is pretty steady,” McDermott said. “I think this will be a good experience for him.”
“You see the things he does. The kid is a freak. You can’t teach what he’s got. ... It’s crazy some of the things he can do.” Bills wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin
Although McDermott maintains that the competition is proceeding as scheduled, seeing Allen get the start in what is typically the most important preseason game in preparation for the regular season is not lost on outside observers. It’s widely seen as Allen’s best opportunity to prove that he should be the starting quarterback for the 2018 Bills.
Again, even though Allen has long dreamt of being a starting quarterback in the NFL, he’s not attaching that significance to his opportunity on Sunday.
“It’s crazy to think about definitely, but I’m not going out there to try to prove why I’m the starter or whatever the case may be,” he said. “I’m going out there to play football and move the chains, put points on the board and help this offense in whatever way I can. I’m going to trust what coach calls and trust my teammates around me, and try to develop some more camaraderie.”
Camaraderie has not been in short supply for Allen, whose habits of coming to work early, putting extra time in and leaving late, combined with his rare physical ability, has begun to earn the respect of his teammates.
“You see the things he does. The kid is a freak,” said Kelvin Benjamin. “You can’t teach what he’s got. Some of the things he does, running sideways and able to throw a ball full speed laterally to a running back. It’s crazy some of the things he can do.”
Part of McDermott’s plan to have Allen start on Sunday is to expose his rookie quarterback to a regular season game week. The Bills sideline boss is replicating a game week in preparation for the Bengals on Sunday, and he hopes Allen is one of the biggest beneficiaries.
“We all know what it’s supposed to look like and feel like in that regard and it’s just him dipping his toe in the water of what that looks like on the field and off the field,” McDermott said. “How he handles his teammates, how he handles the interviews… that’s all part of what comes with that starting quarterback position, even in the preseason. So, it’ll be a good experience for him.”
Allen already has a healthy respect for a Bengals defense that finished eighth in the league against the pass and ninth in sacks last season.
“We’re playing a really good defense. The Bengals bring it every year. It’s a good team and a good coaching staff there,” he said. “They scheme up very well, so it’s going to be fun going against them. It’s going to be my first start, so who knows what they’re going to throw at us. But I trust in my coaches enough that we’ll be prepared to go out there and execute.”
If he does Buffalo’s quarterback competition could soon reach a conclusion.
“You’re driving the car right now,” said Benjamin of Allen. “No matter what you’re driving, an Escalade or a Volkswagen or whatever, you’re driving the car. All the parts in that car are looking at you right now. He’s doing a great job with it. He’s having fun with it. He’s competing and learning from his mistakes and that’s all you can ask. He’s excited and ready to play and he’s going to have a great career in this league.”