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Bills defenders praise QB Allen: 'Josh is impressive'

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Josh Allen is taking advantage of every opportunity to win the Buffalo Bills' starting quarterback job for Week 1.

The No. 7 overall pick impressed in his second preseason game on Friday night. Allen completed 9 of 13 passes for 60 yards and a touchdown in the Bills 19-17 win over the Cleveland Browns.

When Allen entered the game for starter AJ McCarron -- who suffered a hairline fracture -- it immediately jumpstarted the Bills offense. The rookie led scoring drives of 15 plays, 8 plays and 6 plays to compile 13 points. Buffalo scored on each of Allen's three drives Friday night.

Allen displayed his famous big-arm, but it was his deft pocket movement, increased awareness, and getting through reads that should have coaches excited about the rookie's improvement. His two-yard TD whip to receiver Rod Streater in the back of the end zone displayed improved pocket mobility and keenness to keep his eyes downfield and not bail on the play when the head was on.

It's not just fans and media members gushing over Allen's play. The rookie has veterans in his own locker room impressed with this demeanor and ability.

"Josh is impressive," Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said, via Matthew Fairburn of The Athletic. "I think he had a lot of criticism as far as whether or not he was NFL ready coming out. Watching him and his poise in the pocket, being able to still keep his eyes down field and fire the ball and find guys open, it's impressive. He's making plays when he needs to. He took a shot today and got right back up."

Added Alexander: "He's definitely gaining my trust. He already has my respect, but just my trust as far as him going out there and being able to command the offense, get guys in place, run it smoothly as a young guy. If he's in that spot, it's not going to be like, 'Oh no, we've got a rookie out there.' He seems like he's holding his own and operating at a high level. Obviously he has to go and continue to get better as time goes on and he gains experience. He's impressive to me. If he ends up winning it, we'll have as good a chance as if any of those other guys win."

It's hard to ignore defensive players respecting the leadership and talent of a rookie quarterback. Those defenders are the ones going up against the quarterbacks in practice day after day after day. They are in the best position to know if the hype is manufactured or real.

Alexander wasn't a one-off QB-praiser either. Defensive end Shaq Lawson joined the chorus admiring Allen.

"Oh, man, he's energetic," Lawson said. "Like he's been here three or four years. He's not like a normal rookie. When a rookie comes in, I know how I was, I was quiet. He's energetic. He's a leader like he's been in the league a long time. You can tell in how he prepares and plays.

"I've been knowing what type of guy Josh is since he got here. He's got a big arm, strong kid, moves well in the pocket. He's a special athlete. The last time I said that about a quarterback who was a special athlete was in college when I was talking about Deshaun (Watson). He's special. Josh Allen is really a special athlete."

Allen's performance, coupled with McCarron's injury, should put the rookie in the catbird seat to win the starting job. We still shouldn't expect any grand pronouncements from coach Sean McDermott. Nathan Peterman still has a legit shot to open the season as the starter before eventually giving way to Allen.

Everything the team is saying, however, indicates Allen should be given the reins sooner rather than later.

"I would say he's been pretty steady, and that's a great quality," McDermott said. "Mentally, he's pretty steady. I think the guys appreciate that. For a rookie to have that quality is important. The mental toughness element, if you will, is something important to manage the highs and lows of life in the NFL."

The Bills have increased Allen's reps with the first team throughout training camp. With the third preseason game a week away, we'd expect another uptick. If Allen impresses again in the third preseason tilt, it will be hard for the coaches not to hand the rookie the keys out of the gate.

Within any locker room, the players usually know who the best is. Hearing from those Bills players, it sounds like some are ready for the Allen-era to begin.

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