Bills' Josh Allen no rookie in the huddle, teammates say

The rocket launcher arm, fleet feet and daring decision-making were apparent from the stands.

But inside the huddle, Josh Allen’s teammates noticed more.

“He didn’t really say nothing,” Bills wide receiver Robert Foster said Friday, recalling Allen’s reaction after they failed to connect on a deep pass down the left sideline on the first play of the second half of the preseason opener, their first snap in an NFL game. “He called another play.”

Allen, the seventh overall pick in the draft, completed 9 of 19 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown in the Bills’ 28-23 loss to the Panthers on Thursday night at New Era Field. He played the entire second half, leading the third-team offense on five possessions, beginning with a three-and-out and ending with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Ray-Ray McCloud.

In between, Allen’s first game action since he starred at Wyoming featured gorgeous spirals, a sack, a first down running the ball and a near interception while attempting to elude an unblocked pass rusher. But teammates said the greatest takeaway from an uneven performance may have been the rookie quarterback’s steady demeanor.

“Our pass protection wasn’t what we wanted it to be to help him out, because obviously with a rookie, you’re trying to let him settle in and feel comfortable,” center Adam Redmond said. “But I didn’t feel like we were playing with a rookie or a guy who needed any help. He was in there pretty much commanding the huddle. You saw some of those really nice scrambles, a lot of poise in the pocket, and kind of letting things settle down and making some nice throws downfield or getting first downs with his legs. I think he really did a great job.”

Bills quarterbacks maintained the same rotation in Friday’s practice, with Allen working behind Nathan Peterman and AJ McCarron.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen throws an incomplete pass in the third quarter of the Bill’s preseason opener against Carolina on Thursday. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

Coach Sean McDermott said he was pleased by Allen’s aggressive shot downfield on his first snap against the Panthers and how the rookie settled into the game as the second half progressed. He also spoke about Allen’s command of the huddle and response to adversity, whether plays or penalties.

“That’s important,” McDermott said. “That’s part of the evaluation and part of his learning curve. I thought we were getting out of the huddle better late than we were earlier, in terms of better in the fourth than we were in the third. And that’s just not only Josh, but it’s all of our offense. We’ve got a lot of young guys out there.

“The operation, the play call, getting it in, getting it spit out in the huddle, and then the operation at the line of scrimmage, also. We had some false starts where we beat ourselves, and we can’t do that.”

Allen made it a point to hurry back to the huddle, maintain consistent body language and enunciate the play call, Redmond said.

After the game, Allen rated his experience in the huddle, listening for the play call from offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and relaying that information to his teammates, among the biggest thrills from his first half of professional football.

“To get out here and throw with our guys, trust my linemen, and to execute the plays and to listen to what Daboll is talking about in the huddle is something I’ve always wanted to do in my entire life,” Allen said, “so to go out there and hear his voice in my head pre-snap, something that every kid wishes to do, that’s just something really cool.”

After each snap, his demeanor reset with the play clock.

“You have to have a play-by-play mindset,” tackle Conor McDermott said, “so once that play finishes, run back to the huddle, that’s what Josh did a great job of. You have to move on from the last play, whether good or bad, and just move on and play the next play. It definitely takes work at it, training, because if you have a bad play, it’s hard to not let that stick with you.”

McCloud, who caught the late touchdown, wasn’t surprised by Allen’s poise.

“The way he led us in rookie minicamp, I knew what time it was with him,” McCloud said. “He has a leadership that a lot of people don’t have.”

NOTES: Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is dealing with what McDermott described as a “little back, neck area” injury sustained during Thursday’s game. Defensive tackle John Hughes tweaked his groin, defensive tackle Marquavius Lewis injured an ankle and wide receiver Brandon Reilly injured a rib.

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