Josh Allen, Bills' no-name offense provide hope for 2019

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Josh Allen, the No. 7 overall pick in April's draft, needs little introduction to most NFL fans. The rest of his offensive cast in Sunday's 14-13 win over the Detroit Lions required a Google search.

There was no Kelvin Benjamin, who was released earlier this month. Top running back LeSean McCoy was inactive with a hamstring injury, as was veteran backup Chris Ivory because of a shoulder injury. Eighth-year tight end Charles Clay continued to see his usage decrease; he was targeted once without a catch.

Instead, undrafted rookie wide receiver Robert Foster led the Bills with 108 receiving yards on four catches, including a 42-yard touchdown. It was Foster’s third game this season with at least 100 yards receiving, making him the first undrafted wide receiver since at least 2001 with 100 or more yards in three games as a rookie.

Undrafted rookie running back Keith Ford, making his NFL debut after being promoted from the practice squad, led the team with 46 rushing yards. Another 88 yards were provided by second-year receiver Isaiah McKenzie, who had a career-high 53 receiving yards, and running back Marcus Murphy.

The Bills' offense floundered this season with McCoy and Benjamin as its key pieces but seems to have built momentum for 2019 around a younger core headlined by Allen, their first-round pick.

It was another game for Allen in which his stat line belied some of the success he had as a passer. Allen completed 13 of 26 passes after completing a league-low 52 percent of his throws entering Sunday. Yet there at least two passes -- one to second-year receiver Zay Jones and one to veteran receiver Deonte Thompson -- that Allen's receivers should have caught and would have raised his percentage. Most importantly for Allen, he avoided any turnovers and connected on the 42-yard strike to Foster that decided the game.

“I was nowhere near perfect,” Allen said. “So I have to get better on my end. But at the end of the day, we made some plays and got the job done.”

The Bills are expected to use a large chunk of their $80 million in salary-cap space to address needs along the offensive line and at skill positions in the offseason. They could also add talent around Allen in the draft, when they have their full allotment of picks plus extra fourth-, fifth- and seventh-rounders.

Yet Sunday showed the Bills do not have to wipe clean an offense that has trended upward in recent weeks. Ford is likely to receive snaps over the two weeks as an audition for a role in 2019, while Foster could be given an opportunity in training camp to win a starting job next season. Jones, who had one catch for 11 yards against the Lions, also factors into that mix.

“We’ve got a young group,” Allen said. “We’ve got a group that’s hungry. We’re going to continue to get better.”

Changes are not only on the horizon in Buffalo; they have already arrived.