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ORCHARD PARK Cameron Erving Jersey , N.Y. (AP) — A week before launching his first pass in a competitive NFL setting, rookie quarterback Josh Allen stood in awe amid a throng of Buffalo Bills fans who were not only chanting his name but also that of his mother.
“Mrs. Allen! Mrs. Allen!” they yelled, trying to get the attention of LaVonne Allen, who was standing on New Era Field following a recent practice, watching her son signing countless autographs.
“I’m just kind of speechless right now,” Josh Allen said, referring to the attention he and his mother have received since training camp opened three weeks ago.
“It’s really cool to feel wanted by the fans,” he added, noting there’s nothing during his playing days at Wyoming that compares to what he’s experienced since arriving in Buffalo. “I’m just trying to be the best quarterback possible. So as long as I’m playing well and improving every day, I will just continue this.”
The Bills’ first-round draft pick took his first big step in that process during Buffalo’s 28-23 preseason-opening loss to Carolina on Thursday night.
A loud cheer went up following the second-half kickoff, when Allen — in his No. 17 jersey — took the field for the first time. And the buzz grew on the first play, when Allen faked a handoff and effortlessly threw the ball nearly 60 yards only to have receiver Robert Foster catch it just out of bounds along the left sideline.
“You have to love that, right?” coach Sean McDermott said of Allen’s first attempt. “I think the fans appreciated that. I appreciated it. We’re out there, these guys are having fun, and I thought it gave the crowd some juice.”
It wasn’t Dwayne Allen Jersey , however, lost on McDermott that the pass was one of many that fell incomplete, a reflection of how much Allen still has to develop before being deemed ready to take over as the team’s starter.
Allen finished 9 of 19 for 116 yards, and essentially threaded a needle between two defenders by hitting rookie Ray-Ray McCloud III for a 14-yard touchdown pass. There were some errant throws, too, such as the short swing pass to his right that sailed well wide of Foster early in the fourth quarter.
“We looked really good at times last night, and then we saw where we still have a lot of work to do, and Josh is no different,” McDermott said Friday. “He’s a young player, who I thought took a step last night. It was a good step in the right direction.”
McDermott continues to be ultra-cautious in not wanting to rush Allen’s development. Allen works mostly with the third-string offense, while returning backup Nathan Peterman and free-agent addition A.J. McCarron are splitting time with the starters.
“Calculated,” is how McDermott described his approach to Allen. “You can see the arm talent. You can see the special type of player that he could be. But there’s a lot of room for growth between where we are now and where he needs to get to.”
The 22-year-old Allen represents a hopeful future for a franchise that appears to be moving on an upward trend. The Bills sneaked into the playoffs on the final day of the season to snap a 17-year playoff drought — the NFL’s longest active streak.
Buffalo then traded third-year starter Tyrod Taylor to Cleveland, and moved up five spots to draft Allen seventh overall in a bid to fill a position that has remained unsettled since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired after the 1996 season.
Give him time, said veteran running back LeSean McCoy, who refers to Allen as “one of my favorites.”
“He’s a rookie Ryan Smith Jersey , but he has a super talent,” McCoy said. “And I think once he gets the bruises of playing a little bit, the lumps, he’ll be fine.”
As for the attention Allen has attracted, McCoy isn’t surprised.
“A high draft pick, anywhere you go, it’s like that,” he said. “The thing here is we’ve been waiting for this franchise quarterback. He’s young. A lot of high expectations. I think he could do it. I really do.”
Allen is taking it one step at a time, and focused on not allowing the buzz to distract him.
“I understand that this comes with it, but I’m completely focused on playing football for the Bills,” he said. “I’m here to compete.”
LaVonne Allen is impressed by and grateful for the welcome she and her son have received.
“It’s overwhelming, to be honest with you, to see the love and the passion they have for the game and for Josh,” she said. “They seem excited that he’s here. And he’s as excited as they are.”
It’s a lot like what happened during Allen’s three-year stint at Wyoming, where two years ago he led the school to its first appearance in the Mountain West championship game.
“People are coming up to us left and right and introducing themselves Matt Breida Jersey ,” LaVonne Allen said. “It feels like Laramie. It feels like home.”
Ezekiel Elliott doesn't pretend that vocal leadership comes naturally for him.
The Dallas Cowboys running back is going to try anyway now that fellow stars Jason Witten and Dez Bryant are gone, and now that his focus is solely on football following a tumultuous second year in the NFL.
Elliott is no longer under investigation by the league over domestic violence allegations that led to a two-month court fight of a six-game suspension he ultimately had to serve starting halfway through last season.
The ban cost him a chance to defend the NFL rushing title he won as a rookie, and helped keep the Cowboys out of the playoffs a year after he and quarterback Dak Prescott, the NFL offensive rookie of the year in 2016, led Dallas to the best record in the NFC.
A quiet offseason reached another benchmark Thursday with the final practice of minicamp. In another six weeks, training camp will be underway in California.
"I think the biggest thing I accomplished is just developing more leadership skills," Elliott said. "That's really what I focused on coming into this year, just becoming a better vocal leader with the loss of Dez and Witt."
Running backs coach Gary Brown has been pushing the idea with Elliott, who is going into his third season after the Cowboys drafted the former Ohio State star fourth overall in 2016.
The loss of leadership is actually about more than Witten, the tight end who retired after 15 seasons, or the outspoken Bryant, who was released in a cost-cutting move. Veterans Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris aren't in the running backs room anymore.
Elliott isn't the oldest running back at the position for the Cowboys. But he's the most experienced and most accomplished. Elliott still led the NFL in rushing yards per game last year.
"It's a little bit tougher for me to be a vocal leader," he said. "I like to go out there and work. I think it takes a little bit more extra effort to kind of encourage guys to come with you so it's definitely something I have to work on."
With the domestic allegations looming during the offseason last year, Elliott had a hard time keeping himself out of the headlines.
There was video of him pulling down a woman's shirt during a St. Patrick's Day parade. Although he wasn't disciplined for that by the NFL, the incident was mentioned in the letter detailing his punishment. Elliott also had his second minor car accident in his two years with the Cowboys.
The 22-year-old hasn't given anyone reason to question his judgment so far this offseason.
"I think it changed him a lot Charles Clay Jersey ," Brown said of events over the past year. "I think that he's realized that this is a very special opportunity that he has, especially to be one of the better backs, one of the best backs to ever play. He has that opportunity, and I think he understands that now."
Elliott shattered the Dallas rookie rushing record with 1,631 yards two years ago. Last season, he was at his best in helping the Cowboys to a three-game winning streak that boosted their playoff hopes. Then the suspension hit.
The departure of Bryant has left the Cowboys with uncertainty at receiver and the likelihood that they will lean heavily on Elliott, with defenses obviously scheming to stop him.
"I'm all for it," Elliott said. "A lot is asked of the running back of the Dallas Cowboys. A lot has been asked of me in pass receiving. I think I've had some great strides this offseason getting ready to carry that workload this season."
While encouraging Elliott to speak up more in his group, Brown hasn't felt the need to stress what's coming with the workload. That's something he figures Elliott understands.
"I think Zeke is a very intelligent man," Brown said. "And it's going to happen early. We understand what the mindset of some defenses will be, and we've just got to make sure we weather the storm."
For now, Elliott is enjoying the calm.
NOTES: RG Zack Martin signed the $84 million, six-year extension that made him the highest-paid guard in the NFL. Martin is now under contract through 2024.
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