Jalen Ramsey is renowned for his big mouth, so it wasn’t exactly astounding to learn the Jaguars' shutdown cornerback was spouting off about numerous NFL players in an interview with GQ magazine. Most surprising was him targeting Bills rookie Josh Allen out of the blue.
“He's trash,” Ramsey said. “And it's gonna show too. That's a stupid draft pick to me. We play them this year, and I'm excited as hell. I hope he's their starting quarterback. He played at Wyoming. Every time they played a big school—like, they played Iowa State, which is not a big school in my opinion because I went to Florida State, and he threw five interceptions, and they lost by a couple touchdowns or something like that. He never beat a big school.”
In the interest of accuracy, Allen didn’t play against Iowa State. The former Wyoming star had two interceptions in a 24-3 loss to Iowa last season and had six picks all year. Two years ago, he was intercepted five times against Nebraska. Ramsey didn’t let the facts prevent him from tearing into Allen for no obvious reason.
Social media was ablaze, of course, which is what happens anytime a player says something remotely controversial. The whole came off like a charade, a calculated decision by Ramsey to drag Allen into a mini-controversy because he wanted to see how the kid responded.
Ramsey knew darned well that there was a strong possibility of Allen starting for the Bills when they play the Jaguars in Week 11, one week after the bye. He was preying on the fragile psyche of a young quarterback in an attempt to shake his confidence. It wasn't as if Allen was some random mark.
Allen shrugged off the comments on the last day of training camp and let his play speak for him Friday. He completed nine of 13 passes for 60 yards and one touchdown while leading the Bills to two scoring drives in their 19-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
Bills coach Sean McDermott has mentioned Allen’s mental toughness several times since the Bills selected him seventh overall. You know the story, how he came from the middle of nowhere in California, was barely recruited out of high school and turned himself into a top prospect at Wyoming.
Allen is certain to be tested in the NFL. Here's an idea: Test him against a first-team defense. The Bills have little to lose by starting him against the Cincinnati Bengals in the third preseason game Aug. 26. Better competition just might bring out the best in him.
"He did some good things," McDermott told reporters in Cleveland after the game. "Mentally, he's pretty steady. I think the guys appreciate that. For a rookie to have that quality is important, the mental toughness aspect, if you will, to manage the highs and lows of life in the NFL."
It’s also important to note that Ramsey is one of the best corners in the league, the Jaguars’ version of Richard Sherman in his prime. Ramsey is looking for any advantage whether it means calling Steve Smith Sr., an “old man” or calling out the Bills’ presumptive franchise QB.
Remember, he chirped A.J. Green into submission last season in a game against the Bengals. Green became so incensed with the cornerback’s yapping that he started whaling on him, to the envy of many, before he was ejected.
Ramsey wasn’t just picking on Allen. He ripped Ravens veteran Joe Flacco. “He sucks,” Ramsey said. He said Falcons star Matt Ryan was “average” and Steelers star Ben Roethlisberger was “decent at best” before suggesting the Colts’ Andrew Luck wasn’t that good.
Allen fared well in his first action with the top offense. He played against the Browns’ second defense and made several solid throws in the short-passing game before finding Rod Streater on a short TD pass. He found open receivers and made tight throws on time. He did a good job against the pass rush and scrambled for 16 yards, including a first down.
Overall, he was solid.
"It felt good just getting out there," Allen said. "As quarterbacks, sometimes we try to make the game more complicated than what it is. Taking what the defense gave us tonight, getting the ball in the hands of our playmakers was what we were trying to do. I feel like I did a pretty good job with that, but there were still some throws that I missed that I shouldn't have missed."
A.J. McCarron didn’t help his chances of starting before injuring his shoulder. He failed to engineer a first down and struggled mightily against the Browns’ first-team defense before giving way to Allen in the second quarter. McCarron was three of six for 12 yards and looked overwhelmed with little help from the offensive line.
Nathan Peterman was the third quarterback Friday and validated his solid performance in the preseason opener with another good game Friday. He completed eight of 10 passes for 113 yards and a 35-yard touchdown pass to Nick O’Leary. Peterman appears to be winning the three-way quarterback competition – for now.
We’ll see how the preseason unfolds, but Allen is expected to become the No. 1 quarterback at some point this season. He’ll also face his share of criticism while being compared to the likes of Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold. Critics are prepared to pounce whenever Allen throws a pick or makes a bad decision.
You can practically hear critics saying, “See, Jalen Ramsey was right.” If Allen can’t handle trash talk from players or criticism from fans, he’s in the wrong profession. He took the right step Friday against the Browns and quieted some people in the process.