Peterman’s first NFL appearance, in relief of Taylor against the New Orleans Saints last November, was promising: He completed 7 of 10 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown in limited action. Peterman got the start the next week against the Los Angles Chargers and threw five (!) interceptions in the first half, resulting in a 17.9 passer rating, before he was benched. That figure is less than half the rating he would have produced if he just threw every pass to the ground (39.6). If you’re only throwing incompletions, you’re hurting your team. If what you’re doing is even worse than that, you’re eviscerating it.
He ended his 2017 campaign, two starts in four games, by completing 49.0 percent of his passes for 252 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions. His Total Quarterback Rating was good enough to win a mere 14 percent of games, roughly equivalent to a 2-14 season.
His first start of 2018 didn’t go much better. Before being benched, Peterman completed 5 of 18 passes for 24 yards and two interceptions — yielding a 0.0 passer rating — and was sacked three times. The outing was so bad that his passer rating actually increased from 1.7 to 4.9 after an incomplete pass.
Given the utterly inexplicable situation the Bills created for themselves, starting Allen is the least bad option. But as Rodger Sherman says, it’s still a really bad situation:
Regardless of Allen’s talent, it will be hard for him to shine amid the rotting offense he is expected to lead. The Bills lost three of last season’s starters on the offensive line in center Eric Wood, left guard Richie Incognito, and left tackle Cordy Glenn. They also lost tackle Seantrel Henderson, who started Week 1 for the Texans. Buffalo replaced these players with nobody. The two free-agent linemen the Bills signed, tackle Marshall Newhouse and center Russell Bodine, both failed to win starting jobs out of training camp. The Bills slid Vladmir Ducasse from right to left guard to replace Incognito and are starting players who began last season as backups at left tackle, center, and right guard.
The Bills’ other glaring weakness was wide receiver. Instead of paying potentially competent players at the position, their big addition was Jeremy Kerley [now released! –ed.], who was the Jets’ third receiver last year. Buffalo’s receiving corps, the weakest in football, is led by Kelvin Benjamin, who is a worrisome no. 1 option.
Who did the Bills add in free agency? Their biggest signing was Star Lotulelei, a defensive tackle who was brought in to bolster the run defense. One problem, though: Lotulelei’s run defense has suffered a huge drop-off the last two seasons.
Instead of getting good players for the 2018 season, the Bills have kept their cash and assets for the future. They’ll have 10 picks in next year’s draft and the second-most cap room to spend on free agents in the 2019 offseason. But the Bills haven’t built with the long term in mind. In this year’s draft, the front office traded up three times: twice to get Allen (at a huge disadvantage in terms of draft pick value) and once to get linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. Those aren’t moves made by a team looking to build for the future.
It is true that Allen has shown evidence in both the pre-season and his mop-up in Week 1 of the tools that caused scouts to overlook his substandard performance. His arm is a true cannon, beyond a generic Strong Arm of the Hackenberg variety. (As Mina Kimes says, his throws look like Aroldis Chapman fastballs. This actually strikes me as a mixed blessing — if you’re a wideout would you rather try to catch a Chapman fastball or a nice Tom Brady changeup that gets where it’s supposed to be when it’s supposed to be there? — but it’s different, and I suppose if you need Allen to do something unprecedented that’s what you’re looking for.) He also has surprisingly nimble footwork for a big guy. There’s no way the risk/reward justifies making him a top 10 pick, but carefully nurtured by a good coach in a good offensive infrastructure like New England or Kansas City or the Rams…he might turn into something.
But it would be difficult for a relatively polished, pro-ready rookie to succeed with a bad o-line, terrible receivers, a gimpy 30-year-old RB coming off a mediocre season, and a replacement-level-to-be-generous offensive coordinator. And Allen is miles from polished or pro-ready. And what’s weird is that the situation is unnecessarily dire. They could have kept Taylor and/or McCarron rather than making the only alternative to starting Allen immediately a non-prospect with a Hackenbergesque body of work. They let affordable, quality receivers go to LA and New England for no obvious reason. The decision to move on from Watkins is more understandable but they’ve now moved from a disappointment from the 2014 draft to a near-bust from the 2014 draft. They traded their left tackle, knowing they had already suffered major losses to the line. Basically, they’ve somehow managed to combine the worst of old-school bullshit with the worst of extreme-tanking “analytics.” Sure, they were going to be bad this year anyway, so some will argue they should just strip the team to the studs — it’s worked for Buffalo’s NHL team, right? Right? Only 1)players don’t develop — or not develop — in a vacuum and 2)while they have a lot of cap space in 2019 how many premium free agents are looking to come to a ghastly team in small cold-weather city? Why would you draft a tools project like Allen and then create a situation when you’re going to have to almost immediately start him with no surrounding talent, running an offense designed by the mastermind behind the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs and 2010 Cleveland Browns?
But, hey, sports blogging thrives on trainwrecks, and between this and the astonishing return of Jon Gruden do we ever have some trainwrecks.