The Buffalo Bills find themselves right back where they were at the start of training camp: Without a starting quarterback.
Coach Sean McDermott chose not to say Monday if it will be Nathan Peterman or rookie Josh Allen under center Sunday for the home opener against the Los Angeles Chargers.
“Still going through it,” McDermott said. “Certainly respect where everyone is coming from on it. Going to continue to evaluate where we are, dotting the i’s, crossing the t’s. Take it one step at a time.”
It may flabbergast Bills fans to hear that Peterman is still under consideration after he melted down yet again Sunday. The second-year veteran finished 5 of 18 for 24 yards and two interceptions – a quarterback rating of 0.0 – in an embarrassing 47-3 loss to the Ravens. It’s the second time in three career starts Peterman has been pulled from the lineup because of performance.
McDermott, though, did his best not to single out Peterman on Monday.
"When you look at the tape – what I've looked at to this point, I've been through it a couple times already – we all have to do our job better,” the coach said. “Whether it's the quarterback position, my position, just to name two of them. You can go around our team and say in all three phases, we didn't play well enough to win the football game. Not even close.”
Allen was better Sunday, but far from great. He finished 6 of 15 for 74 yards, but coming into the game when the score was 40-0 basically amounted to an exhibition game.
"I think any rep for any young player is a meaningful rep,” offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said. "I think they’re all meaningful for everybody, regardless of the score or the situation is. Focus on one play at a time, trying to play until the end. Again, we’re in a tough spot, a tough situation being down by how many we were down early on in the game. We lost control of the game. Any rep that he can get is meaningful.
“We were going to throw the ball from that moment on when you’re down that many points. He was able to move around in the pocket, work on some play concepts, see how he can move the ball down the field. He handled it like a pro. I’m sure there are some things he would want back, just like all of us, but again, he’s a young player that’s still developing that I have a lot of trust in.”
The No. 1 reason the team might not turn to Allen is if the coaching staff simply doesn’t feel his development is far enough along.
“There's a lot of things that will go into that decision,” McDermott said. “To get into all the things I have to look at and consider, it's not just as simple as some might think. There's a lot of hands in that jar. You've got to look at the overall team and all three phases, and Josh's development being one of them.
“I have a lot of confidence in this football team, that we'll continue to grow, continue to develop. We've got a lot of young players on this football team. The path to success is never a clean one.”
McDermott did his best to take the long view after Sunday’s defeat – which was the second-most lopsided loss in franchise history – stressing multiple times that the current front office and coaching staff is just beginning its second season.
“We're still trying to get this thing right and continue to build for the future here,” he said.
Overreactions are common in the once-a-week world of the NFL, but it wouldn't be out of line to have serious reservations about McDermott’s “process” after a loss like Sunday’s.
“It’s one game and we have to keep things in proper perspective,” McDermott said. “We're still finding out who we are as a football team. We have to continue to grow and learn from the film, learn from the experience we went through in all three phases yesterday as coaches and as players.”
McDermott said he was satisfied with the team’s effort and intensity, even as the game was out of reach. That includes wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who had just one catch for 10 yards on seven targets. Fans on social media have been roasting Benjamin for appearing to quit at times Sunday.
“I don't question the effort of anybody on the field,” McDermott said. “Are there some plays overall as a football team where guys stood out here or there where we didn't do enough? Yes, but overall I thought the guys played hard – Kelvin included – for four quarters and that's, believe it or not, not what you see around the league in a game like that. That's one of the first things I looked at when I turned on the film last night when I got on the plane to go home, was the effort and intensity of our football team in all three phases.”
Of course, the world’s best effort will mean little until the team’s quarterback play drastically improves.
“When you look at the quarterback play yesterday, this is a quarterback-driven league,” McDermott said. “I thought there were times where we did some things that were on target, and sometimes where we weren't on target or on time. So we have to get better in every area with what we're doing. Not just the quarterback position, but every area.”
Pressed for specifics on what exactly Peterman did well, Daboll said: “There is a lot on his plate in terms of making the right check, whether it’s run or pass, at the line of scrimmage. His reads were good. I know there weren’t a lot of completions, but where he was looking at and his eyes on the defense, those were some of the things.”
By trading AJ McCarron to the Raiders, the Bills have put themselves in a bind. All available evidence suggests Peterman is not a viable starting option, but if the coaching staff determines Allen’s development could be damaged by putting him in the lineup, they have no other choice.
“We're always going to look,” McDermott said when asked if the Bills would consider adding a veteran quarterback. General Manager Brandon Beane is “always looking at different ways to improve our roster. Never going to rule anything out.
“Overall, this roster, we're just in the early part of the second year here, so to say it's a finished product would be not being honest with you. We're early in the stages here of getting this going the right way. We're going to continue to look at things, but this who we have, and I have full confidence in who we have.”
One player the Bills no longer have is defensive tackle Adolphus Washington. He was released Monday, according to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Parting with Washington means just two players remain on the Bills’ roster who were drafted by former General Manger Doug Whaley – defensive end Shaq Lawson and guard John Miller.
To take Washington's place on the roster, the Bills signed former Browns defensive end Nate Orchard, who was in town last week for a tryout. Orchard, 25, is a former second-round draft pick of Cleveland who was released at final cuts. In his three seasons with the Browns, he appeared in 34 games (11 starts) and posted 65 tackles, five sacks, four passes defensed, a pair of forced fumbles and an interception.