After a brief delay, the Josh Allen era has officially arrived in Buffalo, as the No. 7 overall pick will make his starting debut Sunday at New Era Field against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Expectations will surely be tempered after the Bills (0-1) were stomped 47-3 by the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1, the most lopsided defeat in any NFL game since 2014.
Nathan Peterman made it less than 35 minutes before being pulled, having gone 5 of 18 for 24 yards with two interceptions and three sacks. Allen wasn’t much better (6 of 15, 74 yards, three sacks), but head coach Sean McDermott mercifully benched Peterman for this week’s game against the Bolts, who infamously picked Peterman off five times on 14 attempts in the first half of his starting debut last year.
“It’s the right move for our team,” McDermott said of the decision. “I don’t feel a need to elaborate. … Right now this is the right move for us.”
Allen, who went 6 for 12 for 34 yards with five sacks in his lone preseason start, will avoid the sharpest teeth of L.A.’s defense as defensive end Joey Bosa remains out with a foot injury. Absent Bosa in their Week 1 loss, the Chargers (0-1) allowed 38 points to a quarterback making his second career start (Patrick Mahomes).
Head coach Anthony Lynn isn’t concerned, however, about a unit that finished third in scoring defense (17.0 points per game) in 2017. Asked about changing things up on that side of the ball, Lynn replied, “No, no our defense is fine.”
“Everybody has to execute and do their job,” he added. “[Defensive coordinator Gus] Bradley is a fine defensive coach. I’ve got a great defensive staff. We’re not going to change anything up on our defense.”
As for preparing for Allen, Lynn said the Chargers will “look at everything” they can on the rookie, including preseason and college film, while trying to contain his movement ability.
“It’s a little bit of a concern,” Lynn said of Allen’s athleticism. “Anytime you have to defend a quarterback on the move, they’re going to make you play 11 on 11 then.”
While the Chargers key on Allen, Bills back LeSean McCoy is focused on getting his teammates to “make it easy” on the rookie by shouldering more of the load.
“Hey, if [Allen] makes a wrong read and the ball is hard to catch, catch it,” McCoy said. “… In the running back room, making guys miss, breaking tackles, everything to give him the extra advantage is critical and big for this game and his confidence.”
The Bills are mostly healthy but could be without defensive end Shaq Lawson, who is battling a hamstring issue. For the Chargers, right tackle Joe Barksdale (knee) will join Bosa as inactive, while wideout Travis Benjamin’s (foot) status is uncertain.
Despite their opening-week loss, Lynn remains upbeat about the Chargers’ future based on how many opportunities were missed — including dropped touchdowns by Benjamin and Tyrell Williams — against the Chiefs.
“We were just a hair off on a few things in all three phases,” Lynn said. “… I was just encouraged and excited [watching the film]. I think there was enough good things in the game, we’re better. We’re better than we were last year at this time.”