Derek Carr and Josh Allen first crossed paths seven years ago at a summer camp at Fresno State.
Carr was the star quarterback for the Bulldogs at the time, while Allen was a scrawny high school kid hoping to get a scholarship offer from his local college and follow in Carr’s footsteps.
That offer never materialized and Allen eventually ended up in college at Wyoming before becoming a first-round pick by Buffalo in 2018. Now he gets the chance to play against Carr when the Bills (3-0) visit the Las Vegas Raiders (2-1) on Sunday.
“It’s unbelievable,” Carr said about Allen’s rise from the time they met at the camp in 2013. “I think that’s the last time I was taller than him. He sprouted up, he went on to Wyoming and did fantastic things. We don’t text each other all the time or anything like that. I got too many kids running around. But everything I know about him, he’s a great person. He’s a heck of a competitor. He is having a great year, a hot start to the season. Happy for him and all those kinds of things.”
After an up-and-down start to his career, Allen has reached another level this season. He has thrown for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns in leading the Bills to three straight wins and has also run for two more scores.
He has a franchise record two straight games with at least four TD passes and has tied Jim Kelly for the Buffalo record with three 300-yard passing games in a row as experience and the addition of Stefon Diggs have made a major difference.
“I think the better I play, the more I know, the more comfortable I feel, and it’s going to just cycle,” he said. “So I’ve just got to stay on top of it, understand what the defense is doing. Understand that it’s really about what they do, it’s about how we react to what they do.”
Allen’s fast start has caught the attention of Raiders coach Jon Gruden.
“The quarterback is eye-opening,” he said. “He is a fun guy to watch, man. He can really throw the ball. He’s got a great playing style. He’s got a lot of John Elway playing style. He can scramble, he’s strong, he’s tough. He’s a big-time player. And they’ve got an arsenal around him.”
Allen always believed Raiders receiver Rico Gafford had NFL-caliber talent. The two were teammates at Wyoming, where Gafford played defensive back before making the switch to receiver with the Raiders.
“I wish like heck he was on the offensive side of the ball when I was there because he was unbelievably fast,” Allen said.
Unlike Allen, who was selected with the seventh pick in the 2018 draft, Gafford was an undrafted free agent, who first signed with the Tennessee Titans before spending most of the 2018-19 seasons on the Raiders practice squad. He then scored a touchdown on a 49-yard catch in his second NFL game.
After catching 12 passes for 105 yards and a TD in a Week 2 win over New Orleans, Raiders tight end Darren Waller was neutralized by New England. The Patriots focused their coverage on Waller and held him to two catches for only 9 yards. The Raiders hope to get more from their top receiving option this week.
“We got Waller open a couple of times. Unfortunately, we didn’t get it there,” Gruden said. “It was perhaps an issue here or there. … We’re doing the best we can to give Waller the ball, but we also have to get a lot of production from the guys around him.”
Before being hired by Buffalo, Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll held the same title on Alabama’s 2018 national championship team, which featured Raiders running back Josh Jacobs and receiver Henry Ruggs III.
“Josh was second or third on the depth chart. … but you could tell right from the get-go how special he was,” Daboll recalled. “And Henry, he just caught touchdowns as a young freshman. Two good young players. Not surprised by the success that those guys are having.”
The Raiders will once again play in their new stadium without any fans. Owner Mark Davis has said he doesn’t want to allow fans until all season-ticket holders are allowed to come. Nevada changed its regulations this week to allow venues to apply for waivers for 10% capacity, which would be about 6,500 fans at Allegiant Stadium. UNLV has said it hopes to have some fans at games this season even if the Raiders won’t.
“I’m just going to stick to coaching football,” Gruden said. “I’m talking a lot about masks right now and protocols. We’re doing the best we can. I’m going to let Mark Davis and the governor handle all of that. I’d like to see as many fans there as soon as possible, but I understand the reality of it all.”
Bills rookie receiver Gabriel Davis is drawing praise for how quickly he’s made an impact. The fourth-round pick out of Central Florida has seven catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. The abilities he showed in training camp led to the Bills being comfortable in opening the season with various four-receiver formations, with Davis filling various spots alongside Stefon Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley. Diggs said Davis might know more of the playbook than he does.
“In a game, when I say, ‘Hey, Gabe, what do I got on this side?′ he’s probably going to know. I trust Gabe,” Diggs said. “He’s a smart rookie.”
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow in Orchard Park, New York, contributed to this report
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