The Buffalo Bills‘ preseason opener was supposed to be a drama-free affair, with most starters not playing and the stakes as low as possible.
Instead, some fans are calling for a quarterback change behind Josh Allen after new backup Case Keenum struggled in his debut and the fan-favorite Matt Barkley engineered a late comeback in the 27-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts. But insiders caution not to put too much stock into one performance, believing that the quarterback depth chart is close to set in stone.
The latest Bills news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Bills newsletter here!
Keenum’s Shaky Debut
Keenum had a strong start to Saturday’s preseason opener, completing his first three passes on the opening drive to bring the Bills into the red zone, but then missed a pair of throws to the endzone as the Bills ended up turning the ball over on downs. His afternoon got worse from there, as Keenum threw two interceptions and lost a fumble on a strip sack.
Barkley looked very sharp in comparison. Entering the game in relief of Keenum, he completed 18 of 24 passes for 224 yards and led the team on two fourth-quarter touchdown drives to wipe out a 14-point deficit. Barkley later drove the Bills into Colts’ territory to allow Tyler Bass to hit the winning field goal as time expired.
Barkley’s sharp performance and Keenum’s struggles led some Bills fans to call for a change behind Josh Allen.
“Kinda feeling like Barkley should be QB2 over Keenum,” one fan tweeted.
Keenum Likely Not in Any Trouble
Bills fans are not likely to see any changes at quarterback, at least not based on one preseason game. Unlike the Bills, who rested the majority of their starters, the Colts played their starters and Keenum was forced to play against their first-team defense with a lineup of mostly backups alongside him. Top receivers Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis were not in the game, nor was top tight end Dawson Knox.
Keenum is still highly valued by the team. He was brought in as a replacement for Mitch Trubisky, who spent one year backing up Allen before heading to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Bills have placed a high value on the backup position, and Keenum has plenty of experience as a starter and led the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship game in 2018.
After the win against the Colts, Bills head coach Sean McDermott noted that it’s still a small sample size for Keenum.
“Case is a good football player. I’ll start there,” McDermott said, via The Athletic. “I know he wants some plays back. I do, too. There are some things I could have done better. I think that’s true for our entire football team.
“This is one game, and it’s a preseason game. There’s a lot for us to learn from it. I know the result was the result, and we won. That’s great, but the things we can learn from this game — Case included, myself included — will benefit us as we move forward.”
The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia noted that it’s unlikely Barkley would ever jump over Keenum on the depth chart. Barkley has served as Josh Allen’s mentor since Allen’s rookie season and is popular among players, but expected to take a spot on the practice squad. If Keenum were to get hurt during the preseason, the Bills would sign another backup before moving Barkley into the role, Buscaglia wrote.
READ NEXT: Ex-Bills WR Cole Beasley Breaks Silence on Decision to Leave Team