With this offense, does starting QB matter?
Here are my five takes on the Buffalo Bills’ game against the New York Jets Sunday at MetLife Stadium:
1. If the Bills make Matt Barkley their fourth different starting quarterback, they might have provided one of the only reasons this game could be considered even marginally intriguing.
The offense certainly couldn’t get any worse with Barkley, who might be forced into the lineup as a desperate move because Derek Anderson is out with a concussion, Josh Allen is still bothered by a sore elbow and Nathan Peterman is, well, just bad.
Barkley said Friday he had received an equal amount of reps with the Bills’ starters in practice this week, along with Allen and Peterman. The Bills made Barkley their second emergency signing after picking up Anderson, who was brought in mainly to mentor Allen but wound up making two starts.
Allen has been limited in practice all week, which would seem to make the idea of pushing the rookie onto the field shaky, at best. Still, it would be curious to see what, if anything, he has gained by watching while being sidelined the past three games with an elbow injury.
How much of a joke has Peterman become? Jets players have actually had to go out of their way to talk up Peterman in the New York media despite the fact that for his NFL career, he has three touchdown passes to 12 interceptions and a passer rating of 32.5.
Regardless, it’s hard to see any of the healthy quarterbacks doing enough right to help the Bills snap their four-game losing streak. Although tight end Charles Clay was hardly tearing up things, his being out with a hamstring injury takes away one of the few offensive weapons the Bills have.
2. Josh McCown starting in place of injured Sam Darnold could be bad news for the Bills.
Buffalo figured to have had a better chance of winning against Darnold, who has 14 interceptions and 12 scoring throws in nine starts. The rookie, the third overall pick of the draft (four spots before where the Bills selected Allen), has had his impressive moments. However, he too often has struggled to make quick and accurate reads.
McCown, who is in his 16th NFL season, likely will provide the sort of efficiency the Jets need to complement their strength, which is defense. At 39, he possesses enough athleticism to move away from pressure and make plays with his feet. That’s a good thing for McCown, because his offensive line doesn’t exactly provide sterling protection.
The veteran QB’s ability to see the field better than his young predecessor should allow the Jets to take better advantage of wide receiver Robby Anderson, who has considerable speed and is averaging 16.5 yards per reception.
3. The Jets’ defense is capable of making life very difficult for whoever starts at quarterback and the rest of the Bills’ offense.
I know that isn’t saying much. So far, every defense on the schedule has made life difficult for Buffalo’s putrid offense.
What makes this week’s matchup particularly challenging is the aggressive tendency of Jets coach Todd Bowles to use the blitz. With the Jets blitzing 35.6 percent of the time (roughly 10 percent higher than the NFL-wide rate), according to Pro Football Focus, the Bills’ inept and reshuffled offensive line probably will be in for a long day.
The Bills’ inadequacies at receiver also could factor into yet another nightmarish outing for the passing attack because the Jets generally have done a good job with man-toman coverage, which allows for the blitz-heavy approach. Bowles has been even more liberal with blitzes against younger and/or unaccomplished quarterbacks (a.k.a. whoever the Bills start Sunday).
The Bills don’t have a running game to speak of, and it’s difficult to see them finding one against a stout Jets defensive front that includes linebacker Darron Lee, whose tremendous speed allows him to have great pursuit and makes him an asset in pass coverage.
4. The Bills’ defense continues to give the team a fighting chance, especially against weaker opponents such as the Jets.
As horrific as Buffalo’s offense has performed, it’s amazing that the D has yet to simply succumb to the hopelessness of knowing it will be forced to spend far too much time on the field and that regardless of how low a point total it allows, the Bills’ offense won’t score enough to make a difference.
Give Shaq Lawson tremendous credit for stepping up his game. He is playing with a greater sense of purpose and a high level of energy that has been contagious to the rest of the defense. Thanks to Lawson, the Bills aren’t missing Trent Murphy, who is out again with a knee injury, as much as they might be otherwise.
5. LeSean McCoy has to step up and do more on his own.
It’s clear the running back isn’t getting much, if any, help from his offensive line. The Bills’ passing game certainly isn’t doing its part to help open things for the ground “attack.”
Consequently, McCoy must do all he can to make the most out of whatever slivers of daylight he gets. The Bills need him to be every bit of what he has been at his best as a runner and a receiver, especially if General Manager Brandon Beane is to be taken at his word that McCoy remains a key part of the plans for the balance of this season and next season.
Matt Barkley, left, has taken the same number of reps with the starters as Josh Allen and Nathan Peterman.