ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Rookie quarterback Josh Allen moved one step closer to becoming the Buffalo Bills’ starter.
Coach Sean McDermott is providing the strong-armed, first-round draft pick his opportunity to win the job by naming him the starter in Buffalo’s preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
The team announced the decision on its Twitter account Monday evening after Allen practiced with the first-string offense earlier in the day.
The Bills provided no other details regarding the decision, and McDermott isn’t scheduled to address reporters until Friday. Allen and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll are currently scheduled to speak to the media when the team returns to practice Wednesday.
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Allen’s chance comes after he showed continued improvement working with the second- and third-stringers in Buffalo’s first two preseason games.
He went 9 of 19 for 116 yards and a touchdown in overseeing the third-string offense in a preseason-opening 28-23 loss to Carolina two weeks ago.
On Friday, he went 9 of 13 for 60 yards and a touchdown in leading the second-string offense on scoring drives — including two field goals — on each of his three series in a 19-17 win at Cleveland.
Allen, on Friday, wasn’t prepared to say whether he’s made a case to earn a shot at starting.
“That’s not up to me. That’s completely up to the coaches,” he said. “As of now, I’m looking to improve. I know there’s a lot of things to improve on and I’ll continue to do that.”
At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, Allen represents the future after Buffalo traded up five spots to select him with the No. 7 pick to make him the third quarterback taken in the draft at that point.
The 22-year-old, who grew up in Central California, became the first quarterback Buffalo has ever chosen among the top-10 picks, and is being counted upon to fill a job that’s been mostly unsettled since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired after the 1996 season.
The question remained how much time Allen would require to polish his performance after he was knocked for being erratic at times during his three college seasons at Wyoming.
McDermott took what he’s called a calculated approach in gradually developing Allen during an offseason-long quarterback competition rounded out by returning backup Nathan Peterman and offseason veteran free-agent addition AJ McCarron.
McCarron’s status is uncertain after he hurt his right throwing shoulder in the first quarter against Cleveland.
McCarron missed the past two practices, though he was spotted on Monday preparing to ride a stationary bike at the Bills facility on Monday.
In speaking before practice, McDermott provided no indication he had made a decision to start Allen.
He merely said the quarterback rotation would continue without McCarron, and that it was Allen’s turn to practice with the starters.
Allen has stuck by McDermott’s cautious approach.
“You just got to trust the process. Coach always preaches that,” Allen said last week.
“I’m just trying to learn, trying to get better every day,” he added. “I’m trying to become the best quarterback that I can be. It’s going to take time.”
Allen’s timeline sped up Friday in replacing McCarron, who was sacked once and hit several more times in failing to generate a first down during his four series with the starters.
On his first possession, Allen capped a 15-play, 80-yard drive by avoiding pressure and stepping up in the pocket to hit Rod Streater for a 2-yard touchdown on third down.
McCarron was considered the initial front-runner for the job. He is the most experienced quarterback on the roster after spending his first four NFL seasons as Andy Dalton’s backup in Cincinnati before signing with the Bills in free agency in March.
Peterman has put up the best numbers of the three this preseason. He’s completed 17 of 20 attempts for 232 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.
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