Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2018 at 1:08 am.

Bills open season with Peterman at QB

If you had told anyone back in the spring, after the Buffalo Bills signed free agent AJ McCarron and drafted Josh Allen No. 7 overall, that Nathan Peterman would be the starting quarterback on opening day, and McCarron would be traded away after never taking a single regular-season snap, you would have been considered a lunatic.

Peterman? He of the infamous five-interception NFL starting debut in 2017? The 2017 fifth-round pick who seemed destined to be nothing more than a career backup in the NFL? Yes, Peterman.

After a months-long three-way battle, Peterman emerged the winner thanks to decent enough play during practice, impressive stat-compiling in the three preseason games he played, during which he completed 80 percent of his passes, a mostly uninspiring performance from McCarron, and the inexperience of the still raw Allen.

And the kicker is that the Bills decided to completely extract McCarron from the equation by trading him to the Raiders on Saturday as part of their roster reduction down to 53 players. General manager Brandon Beane made the decision to go with two quarterbacks when the Raiders offered him a 2019 fifth-round pick for McCarron because they were displeased with their own backups, Connor Cook and EJ Manuel, both of whom were immediately released.

Ultimately, Peterman is probably going to turn the reins over to Allen at some point this season because the Bills do not look like a team that can contend for a playoff berth. The consensus all along was that McCarron would win the job, then cede it to Allen around midseason when the Bills were likely heading nowhere. That’s still the likely scenario, only it will be Peterman stepping aside.

The Bills’ ending of their 17-year playoff drought in 2017 was heroic in that they barely had six- or seven-win talent, but they caught a few breaks and took advantage to squeeze into the wild-card round, where they lost to Jacksonville.

However, a repeat would be even more surprising. As the Bills head into Baltimore for their season opener, there are big questions up and down the roster, none of which were really solved during training camp and the preseason.

The Peterman decision provides clarity, but he remains a player a long way from being a polished, viable NFL starter, and unless he shocks the world and plays above his fifth-round status, the Buffalo offense could be the worst in the NFL. The offensive line is woefully weak with the exception of second-year left tackle Dion Dawkins, and the receiving corps is almost completely devoid of playmakers. LeSean McCoy is the lone big-time player, and at 30 years of his age, while he’s still very good, you have to wonder how he’ll hold up when every defense will be geared specifically to stop him.

On defense, the Bills struggled to stop the run in 2017, and it’s unclear if they’ll be any better this year. They addressed the problem by signing free agent Star Lotulelei and drafting Harrison Phillips to bulk up the tackle spots and join forces with Kyle Williams, and they also drafted linebacker Tremaine Edmunds to man the middle of the defense.

As for the pass rush, free-agent defensive end Trent Murphy was brought in, but after missing all of 2017 with a torn ACL as a Redskin, he has nursed a groin injury much of the preseason and has barely played. He must provide a threat on the edge to help Jerry Hughes.

In the secondary, cornerback Tre’Davious White is coming off an outstanding rookie season and is entrenched on one side, but 10th-year man Vontae Davis has struggled, and the depth is thin. Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde were one of the best safety tandems in 2017, and they return for a second season together.

SERIES HISTORY: 8th regular-season meeting. Ravens lead series, 4-3. This is the second time in three years the Bills are opening a season in Baltimore. In 2016, Buffalo dropped a 13-7 decision to the Ravens as the Bills’ offense managed just 11 first downs and 160 yards. LeSean McCoy, one of the few offensive players still with Buffalo, had 58 yards rushing.