Ryan Mayer

When looking at the NFL schedule for Week 10, the Buffalo Bills visiting the New York Jets doesn’t necessarily jump off the page at you.

Both teams have struggled this season, particularly on offense where the teams are playing rookie or inexperienced quarterbacks.

For the Bills, their top pick Josh Allen has been injured for the last several weeks leaving the job to Nathan Peterman and Derek Anderson. The results, even with Allen, haven’t been great, but the hope is that they have found their quarterback of the future.

The same goes for the Jets and rookie quarterback Sam Darnold. After a blistering start in Week 1, Darnold has cooled off quite a bit leading some fans to call for head coach Todd Bowles’ job. As the teams prepare to meet on the field on Sunday, we caught up with NFL on CBS analyst James Lofton to get his thoughts on the two teams. Lofton, alongside Andrew Catalon, will be on the call for the game when it kicks off at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time on CBS.

CBS Local Sports: You’re in New York this weekend as the Jets meet the Bills. The Bills QB situation has been a mess this season, but they have a guy they believe to be their future in Josh Allen. What are the biggest areas of need you see for them to fix in order to allow Allen to be successful in the coming years? 

James Lofton: It’s not always smooth sailing out of the gate. The last couple of years we have seen Robert Griffin, Carson Wentz and Patrick Mahomes have success early in their careers, but most rookie quarterbacks are going to stub their toe more than they’re going to be a superstar.

It’s a growing process and to say, ‘What do you need around him?’ It would be nice to have Pro Bowlers around him. Take Kansas City for example. Patrick Mahomes inherited a Pro Bowl tight end (Travis Kelce), a Pro Bowl running back (Kareem Hunt) and a Pro Bowl kick returner in Tyreek Hill.

Most of the time when you’re drafted highly as a quarterback, you’re going to a team where the cupboard has been bare. It really comes down to having a couple of successful drafts and hitting on players who can be home run players.

CBS Local Sports: You mentioned trying to get weapons around Allen, and it seemed like the Bills were attempting to do that when they traded for Kelvin Benjamin last year but it hasn’t worked out. What do you think of Benjamin at this point in his career? 

James Lofton: He is a big, physical target. When it comes to receivers, either you’re going to be really big, or a great route runner. It’s rare that you get the combination of those two things. So, Kelvin Benjamin, at 6’4″-6’5″ and 240-plus pounds isn’t really a separation receiver. You have to throw different types of balls to him to make him successful.

I’m not sure if he’s ever been in the upper echelon of receivers. His rookie year was his best season and he hasn’t performed as well as what his coaching staffs would expect from him. He has shown potential, but only good potential maybe not great.

CBS Local Sports: The Jets have had their own issues at the position this year and the offense’s struggles has led fans to begin to call for head coach Todd Bowles to be let go. What is your opinion of the job he has done as head coach of the team integrating Darnold into the offense? 

James Lofton: Well let’s go back to draft day, as a rookie quarterback, the best moment of your first year is when your name is called and you put that hat on on draft day. After that, you go into camp and are told you’re the third string guy. You’re going to watch, you’re going to learn and you’re going to sit.

Then, about Week 2 or 3 that rookie quarterback is thrust into the starting lineup. He knows about 50 percent of his team’s offense and zero about opposing defenses. He knew about all the defenses in his conference in college because he played against them for 3-4 years. But, when it comes to the NFL, the players are more skilled, the schemes more varied and you don’t see the same type of defenses from team to team.

It’s going to take that rookie about two years to figure out his own playbook before he starts to really get good at dissecting the opposing defenses. That is a tough assignment for any rookie and head coaches know that they have to win some close games. Very rarely are their rookie quarterbacks going to win games 42-38 for them.

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