The Bills have an open competition for the backup quarterback job behind Josh Allen, as head coach Sean McDermott confirmed after the team’s first preseason contest yesterday (Twitter link via ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg). Matt Barkley, who remained with Buffalo via a reserve/futures deal he signed in January, will battle free agent signee Kyle Allen for the QB2 gig.
Kyle Allen, 27, spent the 2022 season with the Texans and has also seen action with the Panthers and Commanders. Last year, he started two games in relief of the struggling Davis Mills and did not perform particularly well, completing 59% of his passes for two TDs against four interceptions (Houston lost both contests). In his pro career, Kyle Allen has a 7-12 record as a starter to go along with an 82.2 quarterback rating.
Barkley, who will turn 33 next month, has just seven career starts to his name, the last of which came in 2018. He spent the 2018-20 seasons with the Bills and saw some action as a fill-in for Josh Allen during that time, and after stints on the Titans’ and Panthers’ taxi squads in 2021, he rejoined Buffalo last March. However, Case Keenum operated as Josh Allen’s backup in 2022, and Barkley spent the year on the Bills’ p-squad.
Kyle Allen got the starting nod in yesterday’s 23-19 victory over the Colts and largely struggled, completing eight of 15 passes for 122 yards and an interception. Statistically, Barkley had the superior outing, as he completed 14 of 15 attempts for 172 yards and two TDs, though it should be noted that his efforts came against Indianapolis’ third-stringers. While acknowledging that Barkley may have gained a slight advantage over Kyle Allen, Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic notes that Barkley did not have much zip on his throws and would not have been as successful against better defenders (subscription required).
Interestingly, Buscaglia believes the player who will ultimately serve as Josh Allen’s clipboard holder may not be on the roster yet. After Kyle Allen’s unimpressive camp and underwhelming preseason performance, and given the lack of speed on Barkley’s passes, GM Brandon Beane may seek a more compelling option to hold the fort in the event of a Josh Allen injury in 2023. Buscaglia names the 49ers’ Sam Darnold as a possible trade target.
There are, of course, other position battles worth monitoring in western New York. Per Buscaglia, Tyrel Dodson appears to be the favorite to win the starting inside linebacker job next to Matt Milano in the wake of Tremaine Edmunds‘ free agent defection to Chicago. Dodson’s primary competition, Terrel Bernard, suffered a hamstring injury in practice last week and did not play against the Colts. And, although second-year pro Baylon Spector got first-team reps in one practice at the end of July, he has not seen another opporunity with the top unit since then. He worked exclusively with the third-string defense in the preseason opener.
Meanwhile, rookie right guard O’Cyrus Torrence played the entire first half against Indianapolis, though Buscaglia suspects incumbent Ryan Bates will get his chance with the first team when the Bills take on the Steelers in their second preseason contest. Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey recently dubbed the competition between Torrence and Bates “really close” (h/t NFL.com), and it appears the battle remains too close to call.