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Vic Carucci's Bills Mailbag: Allen’s ‘it’ factor, O-line upgrades and Barkley’s future

Vic Carucci

You have Buffalo Bills questions that you've submitted to me via Twitter @viccarucci.

I have answers:

@mclennon99: You’ve covered the NFL for several years now. In your opinion, from what you’ve seen so far, does Josh Allen look like the franchise quarterback fans are hoping for? You could see Jim Kelly had the “it” factor and so did Doug Flutie for that matter to some degree. I just don't see it in Allen.

VC: I think Allen does have the “it” factor.

I’ve watched enough of him through offseason and training-camp practices, preseason games and his regular-season appearances to see a decent sampling of that elevated level of skill and competitiveness that separate good quarterbacks from great ones. I’m not saying Allen is great; that must be consistently demonstrated for multiple seasons.

What I am saying is I still believe that there is plenty there with which to work, physically and mentally.

Although it was only one game, Allen’s performance against the Minnesota Vikings was an example of his ability to deliver extraordinary plays as a thrower and runner. That day he showed superb instincts and clear signs he can improvise in ways that average or below-average quarterbacks don’t.

The question that must be answered through the final six games of the season and beyond is how much of Allen’s “it” factor will actually translate into performances that make the Bills a perennial contender? Much of that is on Allen, but it also has a good deal to do with his supporting cast – including offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and quarterbacks coach David Culley.

@FletcherDoyle1: Who would you replace in upgrading the OL and in what order.

VC: If the impressive showing that rookie Wyatt Teller gave at left guard in last Sunday’s victory against the Jets wasn’t a one-time thing, the Bills could very well have found a major upgrade there. But it’s far too soon to know that with any certainty.

After that, I would take a hard look at right guard and, perhaps, right tackle. Russell Bodine seems to be settling in at center.

Another factor to consider is that, besides having to deal with a fair amount of reshuffling since the end of last season, the line also is operating within a new offense and it tends to take upwards of a half of a season before any blocking unit finds a comfort level of a different scheme.

@BVattimo: Vic, could the Bills be considering Matt Barkley as their veteran backup QB for next season?

VC: Absolutely. Why wouldn’t they?

Derek Anderson is a candidate, but it would be a big reach to even say he has an inside track on that role, assuming he fully recovers from his concussion and wishes to continue playing beyond this year.

If nothing else, Barkley’s strong outing against the Jets earned him the chance to get a closer look through the balance of the season. He still might not stick if the offseason brings about what the Bills’ decision-makers see as better veteran options. For now, though, you have to at least put him in the conversation.

@boo_boo23 : Who do you think the Bills go after first in FA? Maybe O line?

VC: Maybe. I think receiver would be on the list, along with defensive end, cornerback, linebacker and tight end.

So much depends on who is available, of course, and there’s a whole lot of time for players supposedly headed for free agency to still work out extensions with their current teams.

@cmg12_3: Is there much downside to seeing what Barkley has to offer while letting Allen watch and learn at least the next few games while getting healthy?

VC: It all depends on what the Bills believe is their best use of these remaining six games.

They could simply take the it’s-always-about-winning approach, which would be consistent with the mantra of coach Sean McDermott and General Manager Brandon Beane that their intense competitiveness won’t allow for anything less. In that case, it would make perfect sense to stick with Barkley’s hot hand, along with the veteran command and leadership that instantly gained the attention and respect of his offensive teammates. Until or unless what Barkley showed against the Jets fizzles, the Bills could very well have their best opportunity to take advantage of a fairly soft stretch of games, including four at home, while Allen continues to watch and learn.

The obvious downside in that scenario is that the Bills could very well win most of their games while falling short of the playoffs, and – more than a few cynics would be quick to point out – have succeeded in little else but lowering their draft position.

If McDermott and Beane believe it’s more important to give Allen all the on-the-job training he can get, which is seemingly the course they prefer, that makes equal sense. Allen needs exposure to the variety of defenses that opponents will present and everything else that goes with taking snaps in games that count.

The commitment to Allen goes beyond this season. The primary mission of McDermott and Beane is to do everything in their power to allow him to become the Bills’ longtime franchise QB because their futures with the team depend on it.

@wierzba63: What happens in the draft if Allen does not look real promising the rest of the year? Do they go after another QB in the first round?

VC: Not at all. See the previous answer.

@TCBILLS_Astro: Here at the two-thirds point in schedule, do you think Bills would be looking to draft/sign “lightning” back to be eventual heir to Shady (age 31 on July 12, 4.0 ypc over the last 2 years), or “thunder” back to be the eventual heir to Ivory (age 31 March 22, <4.0 ypc last 3 yrs)?

VC: I can always see the wisdom in adding running backs, either via the draft (though not necessarily with a high pick) or free agency, especially from the undrafted-free-agent market.

Good ones constantly come out of nowhere, and the position’s generally short shelf life requires teams to keep themselves well stocked. Despite Beane’s declaration that McCoy is in the plans for next year and despite McCoy’s season-best 113 yards and two touchdowns against the Jets, I am somewhat skeptical about a 30-year-old back being a foundational piece of the offense.

It wouldn’t shock me if the Bills changed their mind and chose to move on from him because they found a younger alternative. It also wouldn’t shock me if they did the same by adding the “thunder” element to which you referred.

@Zairewest716: Why are Kelvin Benjamin and Charles Clay still on this football team? They both haven’t been productive and don’t fit the “culture” McDermott is trying to build, ESPECIALLY Benjamin.

VC: I have to agree with you, especially regarding Benjamin. Not sure what the point is of sticking with them for the balance of the season beyond refusing to admit it was a mistake to give up a third-round draft pick for him last year.

@bills_fan80: Is there a chance that Derek Anderson retires now that Barkley is with the Bills?

VC: I don’t know that Barkley’s presence would necessarily prompt Anderson to walk away. My guess is, if Anderson were to make such a decision, it would be based mainly on any concerns he might have about trying to be as healthy as he can for his young family post-football.

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