SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen continued his summer semester of football study by picking the brain of Carolina Panthers’ All-Pro middle linebacker Luke Kuechly after practice Tuesday.
“Obviously people fear him as one of the smartest guys football-wise they’ve been around, and I can attest to that,” Allen said after the first day of the Bills’ joint practices with the Panthers. “I spent some time with Luke before in the past, just being able to hear him talk about football.
“I got a chance to hear him talk about a certain play after practice today, and just the insight and knowledge he has is pretty awesome,” Allen said.
Allen had a decent but not great day in a two-hour practice at Wofford College. It was an OK day. He completed nine of 16 passes in 11-on-11 work.
He hit several on-schedule, in-stride, underneath throws. His accuracy on a couple was iffy.
His completion percentage is going to improve from his dismal 52.8 rate of his rookie year. Take that to the bank. But how much better is it going to get in Year 2? Is it going to get to 58%? All the way to 60%?
We’re simply not going to know until the real games start. Training camp practices and preseason games are not a true enough indication of what will happen in the regular season.
Nevertheless, Allen was encouraged by the experience of playing against a Carolina defense that has ranked in the top 10 in the NFL five of the past seven years. The Panthers were 15th last season.
“I thought we did a good job today,” Allen said. “A different environment, playing in different weather against a different team, I thought we adjusted pretty well. I think our juice was there. Being able to see somebody different across the ball from us, I think we needed that. Super impressed with how we handled things today. We were a very mature, professional football team today.”
Kuechly has made six Pro Bowls and five first-team All-Pro honors in seven seasons.
“I just kind of went up to him, and he said that’s a good concept,” Allen said of a route combination the Bills ran. “And we just talked about the hardships for a defense on a certain play and what can make that play not so great.”
What did Allen learn? “Just why he did what he did in a certain concept we ran,” the quarterback said. “He’s asking what we’re looking at, what our read is on that play. A couple words here and there. We’re trying to make each other better. At the end of the day we don’t really have each other on our schedules so we’re trying to make each other better.”
The Bills ran mostly out of three-receiver sets against the Panthers.
Among Allen’s best throws: He threw a dart to the back line of the end zone for a touchdown to John Brown in 7-on-7 work; he converted a third-and-1 with an underneath pass to Cole Beasley; he hit Beasley on a sharp out pattern to convert a third-and-3 play; he threw a dead-on deep post to Brown that was either dropped or broken up at the goal line.
Meanwhile, Allen’s precision accuracy still is a work in progress. He hit a cross to Brown on a third-and-3 play but it was on the back shoulder and would have gained more yards after catch if it was in perfect stride. He was too low on a cross for Andre Roberts and a tad high on a slant for Roberts.
It’s clear Allen has a quicker trigger on timing throws than last year.
On clicking in the 7-on-7 portion, he said: “Just kind of the route concepts we had when they were playing their zone and knowing there’s some openings underneath there.”
And Allen was eager to learn from the defensive looks the Panthers gave him.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “They do a couple different things, especially their front four. They just line up a little differently, so it changes protections. We’ve got to be right on those. I thought today we did a good job.”