Faith in Allen: The Bills’ first-round quar­ter­back is start­ing to si­lence his early doubters.

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE - Sal Maio­rana

OR­CHARD PARK, N.Y. – If any­one was truly won­der­ing why Matt Barkley didn’t start at quar­ter­back for the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 25, Josh Allen pro­vided the an­swer.

The No. 7 over­all draft pick did not play the type of game that is go­ing to quiet his le­gion of crit­ics, most of whom seem to have the pa­tience of a hun­gry 2year-old and refuse to ac­knowl­edge the kid has now played a grand to­tal of 6½ games in the NFL.

This is the same mob that con­tin­u­ally dredges up the tired ar­gu­ment about how Allen’s col­lege ca­reer at Wyoming was less-than-stel­lar sta­tis­ti­cally and — be­cause of that — have al­ready con­cluded that he’ll never amount to any­thing. It’s also the same peo­ple who some­how, af­ter just 6½ games, ex­pect Allen to be per­form­ing like Jared Goff or Patrick Ma­homes even though he has a frac­tion of the tal­ent around him that those two are blessed to have.

Can we give Allen a chance to at least exit the womb be­fore we paint him as an ab­ject fail­ure, or, as mo­tor-mouthed Jalen Ram­sey pro­claimed, “trash” and a “wasted pick”?

What Allen did in Buffalo’s 24-21 vic­tory over Ram­sey and the Jack­sonville Jaguars went way be­yond his mid­dling statis­tics, which in­cluded eight com­ple­tions on 19 at­tempts for 160 yards. The statis­tics would have been much bet­ter, by the way, mi­nus dropped passes and nul­lified com­ple­tions due to penal­ties.

“See, the thing with Josh is that he brings that ex­tra spark. He brings that ex­tra elec­tric­ity in the build­ing,” said run­ning back LeSean McCoy.

McCoy could not have been more pre­scient in rec­og­niz­ing ex­actly the differ­ence be­tween Allen and Barkley, not to men­tion for­mer Bills quar­ter­backs Derek An­der­son and Nathan Peter­man. Allen gives the Bills hope re­gard­ing the fu­ture.

Mas­sive grow­ing pains aside, some of which are still yet to come, there’s a chance Allen is the long-lost an­swer in Buffalo’s search for a fran­chise quar­ter­back.

Sure, maybe he ends up be­ing an­other J.P. Los­man or E.J. Manuel, the last two first-round choices who pro­vided hope, then crushed ev­ery­one’s spirit. But maybe, just maybe, gen­eral man­ager Bran­don Beane and head coach Sean McDer­mott got it right and Allen is the real deal.

“He’s still young, so again, let’s man­age ex­pec­ta­tions,” McDer­mott said. “It was a good start for him. These (final) six games ... get him back on the field and grow and see differ­ent de­fenses.”

Goff was the No. 1 over­all pick in 2016, and he sat be­hind Case Keenum for half of that sea­son. When he finally got onto the field, he went 1-7 as a starter, he com­pleted just 54.3 per­cent of his passes with 5 touch­downs and 7 in­ter­cep­tions, the Rams scored 85 points in his eight starts and some im­pa­tient crit­ics be­lieved Goff would be an­other Ryan Leaf or Jamar­cus Rus­sell.

The next sea­son, the Rams fired the unin­spir­ing Jeff Fisher and hired offen­sive ge­nius Sean McVay as their head coach, added a bunch of play­mak­ers on of­fense — in­clud­ing ex-Bills Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods — and armed with valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence, Goff soared.

Un­for­tu­nately in Buffalo, place­holder A.J. McCar­ron doused that blue print in gaso­line, and then Peter­man tossed the match that lit it aflame. Thus, Allen wasn’t afforded the op­por­tu­nity to sit back and watch and learn the way Goff did, the way Ma­homes did for the first 15 games as a rookie last year be­hind Alex Smith.

McDer­mott had to send Allen onto the field in Bal­ti­more 40 min­utes into his in­au­gu­ral sea­son and as a re­sult we’ve had to watch the raw rookie strug­gle to find his way, a sit­u­a­tion made worse by the com­plete lack of sup­port he re­ceives from an ane­mic Buffalo offense.

Against Jack­sonville, af­ter sit­ting out four weeks with an el­bow in­jury, Allen wowed New Era Field with that 75-yard how­itzer of a touch­down to Robert Fos­ter, which came a few min­utes af­ter a su­perb un­der-pres­sure laser beam to Kelvin Ben­jamin that re­sulted in a net gain of 47 yards.

He daz­zled with his ath­leti­cism, his 14-yard touch­down run on a QB keeper, and the 45yard scram­ble mid­way through the fourth quar­ter.

Yes, the final pass­ing num­bers were rather ugly. But he also di­rected touch­down drives of 75, 86 and 68 yards, he did not take a sack nor com­mit a turnover, and he played with an un­bri­dled pas­sion that filtered through­out the en­tire team.

“He wants to win. He’s no chump. He plays hard,” McCoy said. (The Jaguars) talked a lot about him, so he couldn’t wait to get out there and prove them wrong. He’s a baller. He won’t back down at all. He has a bright fu­ture.”

McDer­mott agreed on all ac­counts.

“I love his fire,” the coach said. “He per­son­ifies Buffalo, right? He’s a hard-worker, bluecol­lar kid and loves to com­pete.”

TI­MOTHY T. LUD­WIG/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Jaguars corner­back A.J. Bouye dives to try to make a tackle on Bills rookie quar­ter­back Josh Allen in the sec­ond half last week­end.

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