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Nathan Peterman: 'I'm sure the defensive coordinator will have something dialed up just for me'

Nathan Peterman knows exactly what he would be doing if his job was to prepare a defensive game plan for him to face Sunday.

Put together all of the mind-twisting variations of fronts and coverages as possible. Do a little disguising here, a bit of pre-snap adjusting and readjusting there.

Create a whole lot of confusion everywhere.

"I'm a rookie, so I'm sure the defensive coordinator will have something dialed up just for me being my first game," Peterman said of making his first NFL start when the Buffalo Bills face the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center.

“I’m sure we’ll mix it," Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said in a conference call with Western New York media. "We won’t make it easy on him. I’m sure we’ll mix it.”

For Peterman, the chore is to not allow himself to get caught up in what the Chargers' defense has cooked up for him. It is to maintain poise and stick with the doing his part of the "one-11th" mantra that he and his teammates constantly hear from coach Sean McDermott.

"And I think that's what the guys in the huddle expect of me. 'Hey, just do your job, we'll do our job and, yeah, don't worry about too much,' " Peterman said.

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That's far easier said than done, of course.

No matter how you look at it, Peterman has been put in an extremely tough position. He's replacing Tyrod Taylor, a team captain and one of the most respected and popular players on the roster, with the Bills very much in the playoff hunt at 5-4. He's making his first pro start on the road, across the country.

And there's the matter of trying to pull the Bills out of a two-game tailspin in which they have played horribly on both sides of the ball.

On the question of how the rest of the locker room would respond to benching a veteran starter in favor of a rookie while the team is still in the playoff hunt, McDermott said, "I get that; I understand that. Really, it's about becoming a better team. That's what we're here for.

"We are 5-4, I understand that, and we are in the playoff hunt at this point. It is always and will forever, for the time that I am here, will be about becoming the best team that we can possibly become. We are made for more than 5-4 and I've come here to be better than 5-4."

How much pressure does Peterman, who becomes the 11th rookie to start at quarterback in Bills history, feel? He does a good job of keeping his emotions hidden, so it's hard to gauge just how nervous he might be about the challenge ahead.

"Since I walked into this facility, after I got drafted, the message has been 'playoff-caliber' and 'we're going to get to the playoffs,' " the Bills' fifth-round draft pick from the University of Pittsburgh said. "So I'm right there with the team. We are 5-4 and I tried to do everything I can on the other side, behind the scenes, to get us there. Now I'm going to try to do the same thing now that I'm kind in front of the scenes."

Peterman recalls how badly he struggled in his first practice during offseason workouts. He was getting his very first taste of the NFL and of the Bills' offense while going against a defense with much faster and better athletes than he ever faced at the collegiate level.

He's convinced he has come a long way since, through offseason and training-camp practices, preseason action and even in his brief showing in place of Taylor in the fourth quarter of last Sunday's 47-10 loss against the New Orleans Saints. Peterman completed seven of 10 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown with the outcome well in hand at New Era Field.

"I think the good thing is I've seen some live action versus starters, whether it be that game in preseason (at Baltimore) where I got in earlier than expected (after Taylor suffered a concussion) and then even this past game with the Saints," Peterman said.

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Wednesday, the Bills had a team meeting during which McDermott discussed details and fundamentals. The point was that they have been missing the past two games, in lopsided losses against the Saints and New York Jets.

Although Peterman has mostly watched both from the sidelines, he took the message to heart.

"So that's something that we're focused on this week, I'm focused on my fundamentals and my footwork, trying to do what Coach McDermott's telling us to," he said.

As much as there might be a presumed advantage for the Chargers' defense going against a rookie in his first NFL start, there also is a potential advantage from the fact the opponent knows very little about him.

"I haven't been around Nathan and I don't know what his skill set is, really," Lynn said. "You have to go back to preseason just to watch tape on him. I remember him coming out of college and I thought he was an accurate quarterback with some anticipation and things like that, but I'm not as familiar with him so I really don't know what rattles him. Some guys are more mature than others."

Peterman, who graduated from Tennessee with a communications degree and received his MBA from Pitt's Katz Graduate School of Business, is hardly lacking for confidence.

"I just expect to win every game I'm out there," he said. "That's the ultimate goal. And what I measure myself on as a quarterback is, do we win? It doesn't matter about stats or anything like that. For me, it's just about winning, so my goal is to win this Sunday and that's what I'm going to work on."

During his initial preseason appearances, Peterman showed a great capacity for being decisive and making quick, accurate throws. McDermott clearly favors having more of a true pocket passer, which Peterman is, rather than Taylor, whose game is predicated on moving out of the pocket and his constant threat as a runner.

"I had coach tell me in college, that's in the NFL now, what separates quarterbacks from college to the NFL is anticipation," the rookie said. "I think that's what I try to do. I try to make sure I'm getting the ball to guys in those windows, playmakers, and letting them do their thing with it. I don't know if it looks quick or whatever it is, I'm just trying to get it in those windows."

Peterman has a fan in former NFL coach Jon Gruden, who gushed about the rookie before last April's draft while interviewing him during his Gruden's QB Camp series on ESPN.

"I like Peterman for a lot of reasons," Gruden said Wednesday in comments provided by ESPN. "I compare him to (Cincinnati quarterback) Andy Dalton and I consider that a great compliment. He’s intelligent, he’s football savvy. He’s more athletic than people think. He’s an accurate passer and he has toughness. Those are qualities I always looked for – athletic, accurate arm talent, plus some natural leadership skills.

"He’s got a lot of good stuff."

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