Well, it’s that time of year, Bills fans. With just five weeks remaining until the boys in blue-and-red take the field for their first preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, we have entered the last full month of the calendar year without football. Rejoice.
A lot of talk this offseason has pertained to varied expectations on offense. Fans have squabbled about everything from the quarterback position to the offensive line, to the paper-thin wide receiver group and so forth. With the defense looking as formidable as ever, it’s fair to wonder whether or not we are in for a similar season as last year where the offense was largely ineffective while the defense carried the load.
Brandon Beane could still look to add talent to the offense as the first wave of roster cuts takes place, but assuming the lineup doesn’t experience a drastic change from now until opening day, what constitutes as a reasonable statistical output among each of the offensive position groups?
For now, we start with the quarterback situation, a highly-debated topic in and of itself.
We’ll say it up front. The quarterback position is a complete unknown at this point. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of the three current roster players secure the starting gig by opening day. Adding even more difficulty to the equation is the fact that there is a very real chance that someone like A.J. McCarron could very well start the season only to be replaced by Josh Allen or Nathan Peterman mid-way through.
With all of that in mind, we’ll keep it simple and project statistics for all three players as if they each won the competition out of camp, receiving a full season as the starter.
Despite what was reported out of OTAs, at this point, McCarron is still the odds-on favorite to line up under center in week one. As the only player on the QB depth chart with a reasonable sample size at the NFL level, his statistics are a bit easier to predict.
In 2015 he was called into action for the Bengals in a seven-game stretch while starter, Andy Dalton (a folk hero of sorts for the fans in Western new York), was sidelined with an injury. In those seven games, McCarron completed 66.4-percent of his passes, going 79/119, for 854 yards and six touchdowns. Not too shabby for a second-year player who didn’t see any regular season action as a rookie.
Last year, McCarron was less impressive spelling Dalton, though the sample size was incredibly small. In 2017, McCarron attempted a minuscule 14 passes throughout the year, completing only seven.
Leading up to free agency, there was talk that McCarron would receive lucriative offers to become the starter for a QB-needy team on the open market. That outcome never matriculated, and to the surprise of Bills fans everywhere, late in the evening on the first day of the free agent period, Beane inked the veteran signal-caller to a two-year contract.
As a more conservative, short to intermediate passer, McCarron could reasonably experience a slightly heavier workload than his competitors. That said, his yards-per-completion would be slightly lower, but his touchdown-to-interception ratio would be superior.
Projected Stat Line: 298/479 (62.2%), 3,170 yards, 19 TD, 10 INT
After his performance in week 11 against the Los Angeles Chargers last season, the fact that Peterman is still part of the starting quarterback discussion is nothing short of miraculous. After tossing five interceptions in one half of football (an NFL record), the rookie fifth-round pick was benched for the second half.
The circumstances weren’t great. His offensive line was putrid and he had no time to throw the ball, but come on. No matter how much you love him as a player, you have to admit that it was an unadulterated disaster.
According to McDermott, Peterman has put in the man hours this offseason, working to hone his craft and put last year behind him. Since he arrived in Buffalo, the Pittsburgh product has been lauded by the coaching staff for his superior work ethic.
While perseverance in adversity is an outstanding trait, the game boils down to talent. E.J. Manuel was a hard worker, Tyrod Taylor was a hard worker, but at the end of the day passing ability wins out.
It remains to be seen just how much (if at all) Peterman has improved, but he’s got McDermott convinced (again) that he’s got what it takes to be a franchise quarterback in the NFL. Color me pessimistic. His short-range accuracy in a clean pocket was fantastic in college, but clean pockets aren’t the norm at the professional level. There will be pressure in your face, and you’ll have to throw into tight windows with a 300-pound behemoth in your face. Is that a skill that can be learned during the offseason? Probably not.
Projected Stat Line: 253/460 (55%), 2,894 yards, 17 TD, 20 INT
Regardless of what we put down here in terms of statistical expectations for Allen, there is going to be some discord among readers. As it stands, fans are still relatively split on whether or not he indeed has the makings of a franchise quarterback, or if he is just another player in a long line of early first-round busts like Jake Locker and Matt Leinart.
Sean McDermott has been relatively clear on his intentions with Allen out of the gate. All throughout organized team activities, Allen has been firmly entrenched as the third QB behind McCarron and Peterman. That being said, a lot can change over the course of training camp and preseason play.
Let’s assume here that Allen comes out as the best of the bunch (or the lesser of three evils). Without ever seeing him take an NFL snap at this point, it’s tough to anticipate his statistical output, but given what we know about him as a collegiate player, we’ll give it a go.
Everyone knows about the criticisms surrounding his accuracy (or lack thereof). Depending on who you ask, his abysmal statistical output in the Mountain West can either be attributed to glaring flaws within his game, or the dearth of talent around him at Wyoming (or both). Even if you subscribe to the theory that his numbers were a result of a sub-par receiving corps and offensive line, it isn’t as though the situation will be much different in Buffalo.
The only real saving grace here is Brian Daboll. Allen’s offensive coordinator was uncreative and predictable at Wyoming. Daboll’s track record shows he’s anything but. It remains to be seen just how well the first year play-caller can design an offense to emphasize his quarterback’s strengths. Either way, if Allen does start the entire season, his workload will be diminished as he gets his feet wet, allowing Lesean McCoy to carry the offense as he’s done for the past three years.
Projected Stat Line: 257/450 (57.1%), 3,015 yards, 21 TD, 18 INT
Editor’s babble: Solid assessment here, but I’m biased about Josh Allen because he played for the University of Wyoming – so I’ll always be partial to my ‘homie’ from WYO :) This might be one of the more interesting of the many QB battles we’ve seen at training camp over the last couple of decades. Big time thanks to Anthony Sciandra for his contributions to our blog. Keeping us going through the NFL ‘dead month’ of July is no easy task. You can follow Anthony on Twitter @SciandraSports.