We’re back for the afternoon round. Thanks to all of you who took the time to read this morning’s MMQB and DM me about Old Forge pizza. On to more pressing matters…
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Josh Allen jogs to the center of the practice field and lines up with running back LeSean McCoy. “Otis” by Jay-Z and Kayne West is playing over the loud speakers, and the pair glide into what looks like a work-in-progress customized handshake, ending when both pose like tourists taking photographs of something in the distance.
Some days—weeks, months—you’re just rolling. A minute earlier, Allen dumped a long ball into a basketed net from about 30 yards out, ending a positional group accuracy drill. It’s been that kind of summer for the Bills’ second-year quarterback. Had he looked down on the ground, he might have found a $100 bill laying there, too.
This could all change, of course. The offensive line is still cross-training, learning different positions to prevent the kind of porous breakdown that could sink a season. The vanilla looks will disappear on defense, but for this moment in time, Allen has never looked more fluid as a quarterback. Wild-eyed drop backs and a janky windup have given way to relative smoothness. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll isn’t ready to declare victory this preseason but is starting to see the slow churn of progress taking hold.
“That’s a year in the system, that’s practice, that’s playing,” Daboll says. “Really, it’s almost any position I’ve ever been around, there’s so much going on for these young guys, so much to think about. And you can hone in during the offseason. Get bigger, get stronger, watch more tape.
“You gotta understand, this guy hasn’t even played a full season yet.”
His preseason plan was no accident. Here’s a look at the Bills’ playcalls when Allen has been in games over the first two weeks. With better options at receiver (Cole Beasley has become a quintessential young QB’s wide receiver) and more stability at offensive line, this is no longer considered a luxury:
WEEK 1: Pass, pass, pass, pass, dropback (scramble), handoff, pass, pass, handoff, handoff, pass, pass, pass, run, pass, pass, dropback (sack), pass.
WEEK 2: Pass, pass, pass, run, pass, run, pass, pass, pass, dropback (sack), pass, dropback (scramble), pass, run, pass, pass, run, run.
Those are 14:4 and 13:5 dropback-to-handoff ratios.
“I appreciate what [Daboll is] doing and how he’s helped me progress thus far,” Allen says. “How this team has helped each other gel, how we’re working to become the best version of ourselves every day. The game reps, though, are invaluable, so as many as we can get, that’s how many we’re going to do.”
“It’s not a game plan-based thing, it’s what we want to try and work on and practice against,” Daboll says. “You can’t get enough reps doing those things against live competition. It’s a little bit different than practice, you need as much of that as you can get.”
The Bills represent one of the NFL’s great unknowns coming into this season. Should Allen build on a third preseason start in extended action against the Lions this Friday, there may soon be others catching a twinge of his confidence.
2. Ezekiel Elliott’s representation fired back at owner Jerry Jones for his recent quip about the running back (“Zeke who?”), telling ESPN’s Chris Mortensen “I didn’t think it was funny, and neither did Zeke—we actually thought it was disrespectful.” Despite Jones’s forever set-in-stone status as the most lovable man in his own stadium, and a fan base that seems to side with him whenever he paints athletes as greedy for seeking market value, he is running out of time this offseason to pacify the two conduits through which his offense runs. Everything is designed around Elliott, and while the Cowboys hold the administrative leverage, publicly squeezing the best player on your roster, and casually insulting others in similar positions is going to make it extremely difficult to operate moving forward. Would the money saved from playing this game seem worth it in the end if a talented roster ultimately underperforms?
3. Antonio Brown is back with the Raiders for now, though it seems we are only partly through this forest of minutiae. At various parts of this offseason, it appeared the NFL was gearing up to back out of the high-profile suspension business and, thus, the business of impeding their best stars from getting on the field in general. It amazes me how the NFL, though, sometimes through no fault of its own, finds its way into these unsolvable, ethical mazes. There are so many factors at play here. Comfort. Entitlement. Health and safety. Precedent.
4. Good for Kenny Stills, who’s not going to play company man. The Dolphins wideout, who in recent weeks has openly questioned Dolphins owner Stephen Ross hosting a fundraiser for the president and now the league’s partnership with Jay-Z (whose legal name is Shawn Carter), says “[Carter] could have reached out to Colin. He could have reached out to me. Some of the ways that he answered his questions, talking about ‘We’re moving past kneeling’—like he ever protested. He’s not an NFL player. He’s never been on a knee.”
The league needs Stills and Eric Reid, who have been able to cut through the extraneous trappings of these large-scale corporate maneuvers and provide a voice for the voiceless. It’s not about what you agree with, it’s about the ability to have a smart discussion about our current society, and Stills is unafraid to have that dialogue in an increasingly politicized atmosphere.
5. I managed to eat healthily for the first part of my training camp road trip, essentially camping out at True Food Kitchen on Second Ave. in Denver. But decided to end the summer portion of the traveling slate with a fiercely recommended local wing spot here in Buffalo: The Bar Bill Tavern. A 10-piece honey butter barbecue and zesty honey pepper wing spread with waffle fries and a Big Ditch Hayburner IPA is about as close to a religious experience as you’re going to get on a weekday. Maybe a top-10 meal of all time, breaking itself out of the insular wings category, though, as I understand it, I’ve probably offended about 90% of the region by proclaiming my love for one wing spot.
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