If the Bills needed him to play two weeks ago in New York, rookie quarterback Josh Allen would have given it a try.
However, by keeping him on the sidelines armed only with a headset and a clipboard, Allen believes his elbow injury was given the proper time to heal and now he’s fully ready to get back on the field Sunday against Jacksonville.
Matt Barkley started Buffalo’s last game before its bye and he helped deliver an out—of-nowhere 41-10 victory as he completed 15 of 25 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns. Allen was close to playing that day, but the Bills made the wise decision to extend his rest and rehab.
Allen has been with the first team all week and he’s been zinging balls around the way he was before the injury.
“The comfort level is getting to where it needs to be, where I want it to be,” Allen said. “I’m excited, thankful for the opportunity. Our training staff … they did a fantastic job and we’re going to continue with that process as well.”
Allen admitted that leading up to the Jets game, while he was participating in practice for the first time since suffering the injury Oct. 14 in Houston, his arm wasn’t back to full strength.
“The difference I feel in the elbow compared to two weeks ago, it’s a big difference,” Allen said. “I’m thankful I was able to sit out one more week and Matt was able to come in and get us a victory. I’m making throws where I don’t have to second guess. Putting the ball where it needs to be, and when I’m making the throw, there’s no grabbing or pulling in there, it feels comfortable and fluid. Maybe two weeks ago I might have had a couple throws I didn’t want to make, but now I think it’s full game and every throw is on the table.”
Now, how many throws Allen is allowed to make against Jacksonville is up for debate. The Jaguars present a massive test for the rookie because their defense is strong at every level. They can generate pressure with a superb front four led by DE Calais Campbell, they have excellent coverage LBs in Miles Jack and Telvin Smith, and a dynamic CB duo of Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye.
“This Jacksonville defense is going to be one of the best defenses we’ve played all year,” he said. “They’ve got some really good players on that side, their linebackers move very well and their front four, they pay them a lot of money for a very good reason; they’ve got some studs up front and in the back.”
Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll called an aggressive game in New York with Barkley playing, even though he’d been with the Bills less than two weeks. Daboll insinuated Tuesday that Allen is ready for a similar workload.
“I think we’re confident in Josh,” Daboll said. “I know he hasn’t played the previous few weeks, but he’s been in the preparation meetings, he’s smart, so we can we put whatever we need to put in. Whoever’s playing, whoever the starter is — it could be at quarterback, receiver — I think you try to put things together that attack the weaknesses of the opponent. It could change, week to week, on what you want to do. But you try to attack all levels of the field, whether it’s vertically, horizontally, and you have those in your game plan every week. We executed them very well (against the Jets).”
15th regular-season meeting. Bills lead series 8-6. The Bills have won three of the last four, the lone loss coming at Wembley Stadium in London in 2015. The Jaguars have won both postseason games between the teams, including a 10-3 victory last year in the AFC wild-card round.
BY THE NUMBERS
200 – The Bills will be looking to hold a third straight opponent under that yardage figure for the first time in club history. The Bears gained 190 yards and the Jets had 199 in Buffalo’s last two games.
- QB Josh Allen has missed the last four games with an elbow injury, but he is expected to get the start against the Jaguars.
- QB Derek Anderson remains in concussion protocol and has not practiced since getting hurt on Oct. 29 in the Monday night game against the Patriots.
- RB Chris Ivory is bothered by a shoulder injury, but he should be able to play against the Jaguars, where he played the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
- TE Charles Clay remains sidelined by a hamstring injury and he may not be able to play for a second straight game.
- DE Trent Murphy is still bothered by a knee injury, but there’s a chance that he may be able to get back on the field for Jacksonville.
- LB Matt Milano cleared concussion protocol Wednesday and was back to practice.
- DE Shaq Lawson suffered an elbow injury Tuesday in practice and did not work on Wednesday.
It’s pretty simple for the Bills: Take as much pressure off Allen as possible as the rookie steps in for his sixth start, but first since Oct. 14 when he suffered an elbow injury in Houston. This is the most complete defense Allen will be seeing as the Jaguars rank fourth in total yards allowed per game, third against the pass, and ninth in points yielded. However, they rank 22nd in rush defense and with LeSean McCoy coming off his best game, there may be opportunities to get him going.
For the Jaguars, it’s clear coach Doug Marrone doesn’t trust QB Blake Bortles and that was plainly evident in the fourth quarter last week. Against a Buffalo defense that has been stout most of the season and now ranks second in yards allowed, the Jaguars will lean on their three-headed running attack led by Leonard Fournette, T.J. Yeldon and Carlos Hyde. Until the Bills prove they can stop it, Jacksonville will pound away in an attempt to wear down the Bills and chew clock on the road in what should be a tight, low-scoring game.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Bills QB Josh Allen vs. Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey criticized several NFL QBs over the summer in a GQ interview, and among those was Allen, who he said was “trash” even though he’d never actually played against him. Allen said he couldn’t care less what Ramsey said, and he acknowledges that Ramsey is one of the best CBs in the league. Regardless, Ramsey all but challenged Allen, and the rookie would certainly love to complete a few against the mouthy defender.
Bills offensive line vs. Jaguars defensive line. Jacksonville has an overwhelming advantage up front with a line that includes ends Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell, and tackles Malik Jackson and ex-Bill Marcell Dareus. Campbell is of particular concern as he is one of the highest-graded defenders this season by Pro Football Focus including No. 1 among edge rushers against the run. The Bills simply do not match up well, and rookie LG Wyatt Teller has quite a task against Dareus and Jackson inside. If the Jaguars shut down the run game, it could be a long day for Allen.