New England Patriots

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

The New York Jets are poised to turn to first-round pick Sam Darnold at quarterback to start his rookie season. With Josh Allen, the Buffalo Bills could be on track to do the same.

Patriots observers may be getting their first glimpses at the future of the QB position at New England’s fellow AFC East competitors in the Empire State. Both Darnold and Allen have made progress for the Jets and Bills, respectively, based on their practice workloads and performance in the preseason. And both rookies have a real chance to start Week 1 in September.

Allen will practice with the starters in Buffalo on Monday, after second-year QB Nathan Peterman took first-team snaps on Sunday. Peterman has mostly been part of a rotation with veteran QB A.J. McCarron, who has been out since getting injured in last Friday’s preseason game.

So Allen, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2018 draft, was inevitably going to have a bigger workload this week. But his increased presence with the starters is new. He went 9-of-13 for 60 yards and a touchdown in last Friday’s preseason win over the Cleveland Browns, a performance that head coach Sean McDermott termed a “step in the right direction.”

McCarron has looked like a legitimate roadblock for Allen to start games right away in Buffalo, but an extended absence for him would give the rookie the inside track to get the ball over Peterman in Week 1.

Aug 9, 2018; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen passes the ball against the Carolina Panthers during the fourth quarter at New Era Field. (Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)

Aug 9, 2018; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen passes the ball against the Carolina Panthers during the fourth quarter at New Era Field. (Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)

Darnold’s trajectory looks a little more clear, despite having two legitimate NFL QBs behind him on the depth chart. But so far, the No. 3 pick has impressed with his physical tools and ability to lead the Jets’ huddle like a seasoned QB in his first preseason action.

Journeyman Josh McCown, 39, is still treating the Jets’ starting QB spot as a competition. But it’s clear where the future lies under center in New York. Even if McCown earned the starting role to begin the season, Darnold probably wouldn’t stay behind him for long. Also in the mix is former Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater, but the Jets are reportedly willing to trade him for the right offer.

It’s practically a no-brainer at this point for the Jets to hand the keys to Darnold, who looks like their best QB prospect in years. They haven’t won a playoff game since the 2010 AFC Divisional Playoff against the Patriots, when they had Mark Sanchez under center. Sanchez is currently without a team, after spending the 2017 season with the Dallas Cowboys and appearing in two games without starting.

Aug 16, 2018; Landover, MD, USA; New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold attempts to pass the ball as Washington Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan chases in the first quarter at FedEx Field. (Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Aug 16, 2018; Landover, MD, USA; New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold attempts to pass the ball as Washington Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan chases in the first quarter at FedEx Field. (Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

The Bills, meanwhile, made the playoffs last season with now-Browns QB Tyrod Taylor starting. They fell to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Wild Card round, their first playoff appearance since their 1999 Wild Card loss to the Tennessee Titans, a.k.a. the “Music City Miracle” game.

Buffalo’s starting QB in that game? Rob Johnson. Who last played in 2003.

With a healthy McCarron, the Bills have a more reasonable option to insert as the starting QB while Allen continues to develop. The rookie would then be in a situation where he’d be the first to get the call if McCarron struggles. But either way, it should now be considered a distinct possibility that Allen ends up starting immediately, which wasn’t a guarantee entering camp.

Either team might prefer to let their prized rookie signal-callers develop more before they’re deemed ready to confidently take on NFL-level competition. But both kids have flashed their high-end potential so far, and could be leading the way over their more experience counterparts as soon as Week 1. At this point, neither the Jets nor the Bills have much to lose.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.