With this of­fense, does start­ing QB mat­ter?

The Buffalo News - - NFL -

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.

John Hickey/Buf­falo News

Matt Barkley, left, has taken the same num­ber of reps with the starters as Josh Allen and Nathan Peter­man.

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