Sean McDermott made it perfectly clear who the Bills’ starting quarterback will be when Buffalo returns from its bye week to host Jacksonville.
“Josh is our starter when he’s healthy,” McDermott said Monday. “His development is important for him and important for us as we move forward. … It’s important that he gets as many reps as he can get in live game action.”
Naturally, in a football region that is so desperate for any hope of competent quarterback play, let alone Pro Bowl-type performance, there was a massive overreaction to Matt Barkley’s dissection of the New York Jets Sunday afternoon.
Not that the praise and excitement was unwarranted.
With just two weeks of practice under his belt, and playing in an NFL regular-season game for the first time since the end of 2016, Barkley gave the Bills their best production at quarterback all year. Of course, that’s not saying much given what Allen, Nathan Peterman, and Derek Anderson had put forth in the first nine weeks, but Barkley did things with this sad-sack offense that those three couldn’t in his first opportunity.
Barkley, a 2013 fourth-round pick of the Eagles who is now with his sixth team, looked like an NFL-caliber passer as he completed 15 of 25 for 232 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers after being named the starter on Friday ahead of the hopeless Peterman.
After watching Barkley work in practice, it was clear to McDermott that Barkley was the right choice against the Jets.
“I’ve seen him practice well,’’ McDermott said after the game, explaining the decision. “The biggest thing I appreciated about Matt was the way he led the football team. He had good energy during the week and the look in his eye today was a good one.’’
Barkley made McDermott look good – a rarity when it has come to QB decisions for McDermott. He completed a 47-yard pass to rookie Robert Foster on the first play of the game which set up LeSean McCoy’s 28-yard TD run on the next snap. He hit Zay Jones and offensive tackle Dion Dawkins for touchdowns later on and had a third TD dropped in the end zone by worthless Kelvin Benjamin, who put up a bagel in a game where the Bills scored 41 points. Barkley also completed a 43-yard pass to Foster on a third-and-20.
“I thought Matt performed extremely well,” McDermott said on Monday after reviewing the film. “There are some plays he’d like to have back. To come in and do what he did on a short run-up was impressive. Like I said after the game, I liked the look in his eye and the energy he gave the offense.”
However, it should be noted that his terrific day came at the expense of a Jets team that looked like it was in OTA mode, a team that looked like it quit after the Bills punched it in the mouth and scored on the second play of the game. Think of the worst game the Bills have played this season – and there are a couple worthy candidates – and they weren’t worse than the Jets were in this game. It was a pathetic effort by Todd Bowles’ team.
So, for fans and some in the media to be calling for Barkley to start against Jacksonville instead of Allen, who was almost healthy enough to play Sunday and certainly will be ready in two weeks, was a bit preposterous.
McDermott nipped that line of thinking in the bud.
Barkley’s performance did one thing, and one thing only – the Bills now appear to have a true and viable backup quarterback option if anything were to happen to Allen in the final month and a half. In fact, if he’s amenable to returning in that role, it would behoove the Bills to try to re-sign him in the offseason.
If they’d had Barkley from day one this year rather than the incompetent Peterman or the over-the-hill Anderson, perhaps the Bills could have stolen a couple other victories and would still be “in the hunt” in the AFC playoff picture.
Alas, Barkley wasn’t available. He’d suffered a knee injury in Cincinnati’s final preseason game, was released with an injury settlement, and didn’t get medical clearance to play until just days before the Bills signed him.
Now with four quarterbacks on the roster, the Bills will probably part with one, maybe two. They could cut both Anderson and Peterman and go with just Allen and Barkley. They could cut both and then re-sign Peterman to the practice squad. Or they could say goodbye to Peterman and retain Anderson for the mentorship role he was signed to perform in the first place.
- QB Matt Barkley got the start and completed 15 of 25 passes for 232 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers for a passer rating of 117.4.
- WR Robert Foster, who had just two catches for 30 yards coming into the game, had three for 105, thus becoming the Bills’ first 100-yard receiver since Week 6 of the 2017 season.
- RB LeSean McCoy entered the day with 267 yards rushing but went for 113 on 26 carries and scored his first two touchdowns of the season including a season-best 28-yard scamper.
- WR Kelvin Benjamin continues to be one of the most disappointing players in the NFL. He was targeted three times and did not catch a pass, dropping one in the end zone that was right in his hands.
- LB Matt Milano had another strong game as he was in on six tackles and made an interception, but he left the game in the second half and went into concussion protocol.
- LB Tremaine Edmunds cleared concussion protocol the day before the game, then went out and made a team-high eight tackles.
- SS Micah Hyde recorded his first interception of the season and also had a 17-yard punt return.
- WR Isaiah Thomas, signed earlier in the week, made an impact on offense and special teams. He had a 33-yard kickoff return, 42 yards on four punt returns, a 14-yard pass reception, and three carries on jet sweeps for 32 yards.
- WR Zay Jones set new career single-game highs with eight catches for 93 yards and also scored his second TD of the season.
- DE Jerry Hughes was a menace on the pass rush as he had a sack, several pressures, two QB hits, four tackles, and batted down a pass.