Jim Kubiak will be analyzing the play of the Bills quarterbacks throughout the season for BNblitz.com. Kubiak is the all-time leading passer at Navy, has played in the NFL, NFL Europe and the Arena Football League, and been a coach and executive in the AFL. He spent eight years as the radio analyst for the University at Buffalo and runs the Western New York Quarterback Academy to help develop the next generation of quarterbacks.
Quarterbacks are graded each quarter using a “Doing Your Job” grading system for every play.
An overall quarterback grade of 87 percent falls short as Josh Allen started his first NFL game in the Bills' 26-13 loss to the Bengals. Penalties and a lack of execution hurt Buffalo in the first half allowing the Bengals to take control.
The Bills will soon be deciding on who will start the season at quarterback. Will it be AJ McCarron’s experience, Nathan Peterman’s grit and efficiency, or Allen's raw talent?
Game grades are measurements that account for a quarterback’s responsibilities on any given play. Handing the ball off correctly, throwing a completion to the open man, and getting into the right play or protection are all part of the quarterback's job description.
Moving the team and evaluating the operational skills are also a part of what matters most. Yards passing, however, are less important in evaluation because the quarterback has little to do with where his defensive reads take him in his progression. Thus, a very “efficient” quarterback might have many completions for little yardage, or he may have attained additional passing yards because of broken tackles and yards after catch (YAC) by the receiver. The efficiency and consistency of making the correct calls and reads are what matters most.
Protecting the football, taking what the defense gives, understanding protection and attacking blitz areas are the essential measures of success, as defenses are always designed to take something away. Knowing how to adjust and counter defensive structure is critical to successful quarterback play at the highest level.
The NFL game is extremely fast and complex, which is why it is so difficult to find top-tier quarterbacks. It is the education of a quarterback, the sum total of his experiences and ability to learn from those experiences, which ultimately determine long-term success.
The first 16 plays for the Bills and Josh Allen were riddled with hiccups, including four negative plays (two penalties/two sacks) that ultimately detracted from production in the first-quarter drives.
The Bills were late out of the huddle, which caused an illegal shift penalty on the first drive.
During the second drive, the wide receivers were again not lined up properly. Allen smartly prevented this penalty by getting them “set” prior to the snap. Unfortunately, Allen came back with a “hard count” on the next play that resulted in a false start penalty for the Bills. The third series also started with a false start penalty on the Bills as Allen again went on a hard count, trying to draw the defense offsides.
How do you grade these types of situations? The quarterback creates the cadence on any given play and is responsible for the dissemination of information to the players on the field. Early in the game, the offensive operation was a struggle for Buffalo. This was a good dose of adversity for Allen, as the Bills could not get any
offensive rhythm. Allen could have helped himself and the offense with some basic quick counts rather than trying to draw the defense offsides.
Allen graded out to a 75 percent, with eight minuses and a couple of missed opportunities.
One in particular was a scramble to Allen’s right as he had a streaking wide receiver down the sideline. Allen underthrew the pass, which could have been a touchdown. The Bills were extremely concerned about the pass rush of the Bengals and were trying to minimize the physical nature of their defensive front.
Operationally Buffalo hurt themselves in the process of trying to keep them off balance, and this part of the game falls on the quarterback.
The second quarter got off to a difficult start for Allen and the Buffalo offense as well.
The Bills gave up three sacks in the first five plays. The Cincinnati defense turned up the heat overwhelming the Bills' offensive linemen. These sacks were created by terrific individual efforts and not the breakdown of any offensive schemes. The Bengals were more physical, more athletic and collapsed the pocket on Allen in each case, as he had no chance of making a play.
Allen demonstrated impressive poise under significant duress in the quarter. He was flushed again on a play before the half and sacrificed his body to throw the ball away. A very gutsy and mature decision by Allen as he hit the turf hard following the throw.
Peterman finished the quarter's final two plays as Allen was evaluated by the medical staff for a potential head injury.
Allen finished the game 6 of 12, for 34 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
Often times when things begin to unravel, young players accentuate the problems with catastrophic mistakes. Allen did no such thing. The Bills and Allen will be better for their experiences in this game.
Nathan Peterman takes over in the third quarter with outstanding efficiency leading Buffalo on consecutive scoring drives accounting for all of the Bills’ points in the game.
Peterman was a perfect 7-for-7 passing and demonstrated his understanding of pass protection on an important third and 10 play where he adjusted his protection call. This adjustment picked up the linebacker blitz that enabled him to complete the “out” route for the first down conversion.
It is these kinds of plays that can change the complexion of a game. It is this command of the system that allows quarterbacks to attack defensive weakness.
Following the only turnover of the game by the Bengals, Peterman does a super job with his run fake, before throwing a strike to his tight end Croom. This put the Buffalo offense inside the Bengals' 10-yard line and set the Bills up for another score.
Peterman’s drives resulted in 13 points in the third quarter. He was in control and very accurate throwing the football, directing the offense to perfection. High marks for Peterman’s performance in the third quarter, rallying the Bills back into the game.
Peterman plays with poise and a sense of urgency in a very busy fourth quarter. He makes good use of his opportunity completing 9 of 14 passes. His grade for the quarter is 87 percent, having missed a couple of throws and taking a sack in the red zone. Beyond that, the Buffalo staff has to be excited about his leadership and performance.
There is little doubt that he can fill the role as the starter. Peterman possesses the athletic ability, mental toughness, and leadership. The question is his experience and consistency, both of which seem impressive in this preseason.
The Bills, as do all NFL organizations, need an experienced, productive leader at the helm. If they decide to go with McCarron, it will be for this very reason, he has proven he can play at that very high level. If they go with Peterman in Week 1, it will be because of his tremendous growth and grit. He is a guy that just keeps getting better.
And finally, if Allen gets the call it must be because the organization is 100 percent committed to playing him no
matter what, to develop his skills for the future.
The only mistake Buffalo can make is to start Allen and pull him at any time in the regular season. If the Bills commit to Allen, they must support that decision and be willing to stick with him no matter what the cost. They would be investing in and building for the future of the franchise.