The Cincinnati Bengals swarmed Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen in Sunday afternoon's third preseason tilt. The underrated Cincy defensive front dominated a restructured Bills offensive line, tossing aside blockers as if they were Raggedy Ann dolls to sack Allen five times, and hit him several more.
On several dropbacks, no quarterback would have had a shot to do anything other than duck and cover. On others, however, Allen admits he should have gotten rid of the ball quicker.
"I didn't do a good enough job getting the ball out on time and into the playmakers," he said, via ESPN's Mike Rodak. "Holding onto the ball is not going to be great most of the time."
Allen left Sunday's tilt after his head slammed to the turf on a pressured throwaway late in the first half. The rookie was checked for a concussion and cleared. He did not return to the game.
Allen went 6-of-12 passing for 34 yards and was sacked five times for 39 yards. It was the most disappointing outing of the preseason for Allen, his first as a starter.
The Bills' offensive line struggles were one reason many observers questioned whether the Bills would toss the first-round rookie into the fire to open the season. Buffalo traded left tackle Cordy Glenn, lost center Eric Wood to retirement and released guard Richie Incognito. Sunday's outing was a reminder of the drastic changes.
Allen, however, refused to blame the line, instead noting that he needs to recognize the situation better.
"Getting out there with the first team, obviously it's moving really fast," he said. "To see that speed, it was eye-opening. They have a really good defense. They came out and they brought it. But at the same time, we had plays in place that could've worked if I got the ball out in time. It just didn't happen enough tonight.
"Sometimes when the play clock got a little low and I couldn't really dissect what they were doing and understanding what they were doing, it's tough on a quarterback."
The rookie admitting that he "couldn't really dissect" what the defense was doing is more disappointing than the five sacks.
Allen entered the NFL draft with most analysts believing he needed time to make the leap into the league. Until Sunday, the rookie appeared on the fast track to a starting gig. The performance in the third preseason game, however, could give coach Sean McDermott pause to put the No. 7 overall pick under center. If Allen can't diagnose relatively bland defenses in the preseason, how will he work around schemes when the games count? Toss in major offensive line problems and the Bills could be staring at a full-blown David Carr situation.
Allen's admitted struggles coupled with Nathan Peterman's stellar preseason play means the second-year quarterback could get the nod to open the season. Regardless of who plays early, we expect Allen to get his shot at some point in 2018, even if that comes with growing pains for the man believed to be the long-term answer to Buffalo's QB quandary.