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Bills QB depth chart: Case Keenum is Buffalo’s top backup if Josh Allen misses time with injury

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The Bills are coming off just their second loss of the season, a 20-17 defeat at the hands of the Jets in Week 9.

Buffalo was heavily favored to beat the Jets, so the loss was certainly a disappointing one for the team. However, the more discouraging aspect of the contest was that star quarterback Josh Allen left it a bit banged up.

Allen appeared to suffer an injury to his throwing elbow on the Bills’ final offensive drive of the contest. Allen initially downplayed the problem; he said he had “slight pain, but (he’ll) get through it.”

Still, Buffalo is naturally concerned about Allen’s injury given the quarterback’s importance to the team. As such, the Bills may consider sitting him if they want to give him time to get 100 percent healthy.

What is Buffalo’s backup plan at quarterback if Allen does have to miss time? The Bills have a couple of experienced veterans in the fold to hold the fort at the position if needed.

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What is Josh Allen’s injury?

Allen’s injury occurred during the fourth quarter of the Bills’ loss to the Jets in Week 9. The fifth-year quarterback came up holding his throwing elbow after he was strip-sacked by Bryce Huff while Buffalo tried to execute a two-minute offense and get into field-goal range.

Allen threw an amazing-looking deep ball on the play after he was seen clutching his elbow. It traveled 69.3 yards in the air, the farthest a ball has gone in six years, per Next Gen Stats.

Still, coach Sean McDermott said Monday that the team was “still evaluating” Allen’s injury. That led to some concern among Bills fans who feared that their starter would miss some action.

Those worries were furthered by a report from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen stating that the Bills were exploring potential damage to Allen’s “ulnar collateral ligament and related nerves.”

MLB fans will be familiar with the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), as pitchers frequently deal with injuries to that ligament. Many opt for Tommy John surgery to repair it, but it’s premature to speculate whether Allen’s injury is that severe — if it is severe at all.

That said, it is worth noting that Allen suffered a UCL injury as a rookie and had to miss four games. So, the Bills should at least be prepared for the possibility that their star quarterback won’t be available in Week 10 and potentially beyond.

The good news for Bills fans is that if Allen misses time, the team does have an experienced backup behind him.

MORE: Latest injury updates, news about Josh Allen’s status with the Bills

Who is the Bills backup QB?

Buffalo’s current backup quarterback is Case Keenum. The 34-year-old veteran has been in the league since he broke in as an undrafted free agent with the Texans in 2012. The Houston product is the NCAA’s all-time leader in total passing yards, touchdowns and completions and has enjoyed a solid NFL career to date.

Keenum had a four-year stretch during which he started at least half a season for the Rams, Vikings, Broncos and Commanders. His best campaign came in 2017 with Minnesota, when he posted an 11-3 record and completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Keenum got the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game that season. However, the team was blown out by the eventual Super Bowl champion Eagles in a 38-7 romp.

Still, Keenum has posted solid career numbers and should be ready to produce if called upon as a short-term replacement for Allen.

Case Keenum

Bills QB depth chart

1. Josh Allen

Obviously, Allen is the Bills’ No. 1 quarterback as long as he can stay healthy. Buffalo is paying him $258 million to be its franchise QB and the talented, young star is among the leading MVP candidates for the 2022 NFL season, though his performance against the Jets will hurt his cause in that contest.

Allen has posted a 6-2 record to begin the 2022 season and has completed 64.1 percent of his passes for 2,403 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has added 392 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, too, and is a difficult-to-stop dual-threat player.

2. Case Keenum

There are precious few NFL backup quarterbacks with a better résumé than Keenum. His career record of 29-35 may not look great on paper, but it’s worth noting that he lost all eight of his starts as a rookie. It just took him time to develop.

In recent years, Keenum has been an accurate passer and solid spot starter off the bench. He spent 2021 with the Browns and carried them to a 2-0 record without Baker Mayfield while completing 65.3 percent of his passes for 462 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

Keenum will be asked to perform in a similar capacity for the Bills if Allen is out. He won’t be as dynamic a playmaker as Allen, as he isn’t nearly as mobile as the young starter and doesn’t have as big an arm. Still, he is a competent quarterback.

Still, Keenum should be able to deliver solid results considering his 62.3 percent completion rate and 78 career touchdown passes to just 48 interceptions.

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3. Matt Barkley

Barkley is currently on the Bills’ practice squad, but the 32-year-old would become the team’s backup quarterback if Allen has to miss time.

Like Keenum, Barkley is a savvy, experienced veteran who has been in the league for about a decade. He was a fourth-round pick by the Eagles in the 2013 NFL Draft out of USC and been with nine different NFL teams since that time. This is his second stint with the Bills after spending 2018-2020 with the team.

Barkley has just a 2-5 record as a starter and has completed 58.4 percent of his passes for 11 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. It would be less than ideal for him to see action for Buffalo given his penchant for turnovers, but he did win his lone start for the team in 2018. So, perhaps the Bills can scheme around his limitations if he is called into action.


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