by Greg Gabriel, Buffalo Sports Page NFL Expert

Early last week the Buffalo Bills signed veteran backup quarterback Derek Anderson, who has spent most of his career with the Carolina Panthers, thus his relationship with Bills Head Coach Sean McDermott. Anderson was drafted by Baltimore but spent the early part of his career with the Cleveland Browns and then a year with the Arizona Cardinals. He was with Carolina for the last seven seasons.

Why did the Bills sign Anderson? I feel that the Bills decision makers felt they needed a veteran presence in the quarterback room. Nathan Peterman is only in his second year while Josh Allen is of course, a rookie. A veteran that young guys can lean on is a valuable commodity, specially at the quarterback position.

Anderson Should Be Starting

At the time of the signing, I felt that as soon as Anderson felt comfortable in the Bills offensive system he would become the starter. It’s not because he is any more physically talented than Allen but rather because he has the experience. We all can agree that Allen has been inconsistent at best as a starter and much of that has to do with his inexperience in the NFL and the level of competition he played with in college as well as his college offensive system.

If we go back to right after the draft, the plan was for Allen to sit and learn for the 2018 season. When Peterman failed as a starter, the Bills had no choice but to start Allen. With Josh not really being ready, the experience he is going thorough can do more harm than good. Quarterbacks have to build confidence and too much negative play can only hurt that confidence.

Anderson Is An Upgrade

Anderson is not about to lead the Bills to a Playoff spot but with their strong defense he can help them win some games that they otherwise wouldn’t have a shot at. There is not a doubt in my mind that had Anderson been able to play last Sunday in Houston, the Bills would have won.

Numbers don’t always tell the story with a player like Anderson. As a backup, he seldom got a chance to play extensively. Playing a few snaps in the fourth quarter is hardly a way to build up statistical numbers. What we have to do is look at what he has done when he has had extended play in the past few years.

In 2014 while with Carolina, Anderson was 65 of 97 for 701 yards, five TD’s an no interceptions. In the two games that he played a lot, the Panthers won and he had a quarterback rating of over 100. The other time he got significant playing time was in 2016 where statistically he wasn’t as productive (36 of 53 for 453 yards, two TD’s but five interceptions). Carolina lost both of the games in which Anderson played a lot to division rivals Tampa Bay and Atlanta. Having not seen those games, I can’t say if Anderson was or was not at fault for the losses.

That aside, Anderson has the experience of playing in the NFL for 13 seasons and getting game time in 12 of those 13 years. There are not that many backups in the League that have as much playing experience as Anderson. That alone will help the Bills because he has been there before.

Playing as long as he has in the League, Anderson has been around several offensive systems and that will help him when learning the Bills current scheme. Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll may have to simplify things early on, but the main thing Anderson has to learn is terminology. Plays from team to team are very similar, it’s the terminology that is different in how a play is called.

Bills vs. Colts

This week the Bills play the Indianapolis Colts in a game that they should be able to win. The Colts are going through similar growing pains as the Bills, the difference being they have a great veteran quarterback. The Colts receivers are similar to the Bills in that they aren’t productive and struggle to get open. Comparing defenses, the Bills have the stronger unit. That said, what Anderson has to do is not make mistakes. Make the plays he is capable of making, score some points and let the defense do their job. With the experience he has, he won’t be nervous and he won’t let a mistake hurt his play. He’s been there and done that and more than anything, that will help this Buffalo Bills team.

Greg Gabriel

Gabriel has spent most of his adult life as an evaluator for various NFL clubs. He started his career in 1991 working for the Buffalo Bills as a part time scout under dormer Bills Director of Player Personnel Norm Pollom. He left the Bills in June 1984 to become the Great Lakes area scout for National Football Scouting. Following the 1984 season, Gabriel joined the New York Giants as their Midwest area scout and was promoted to Director of Player Development in 1996. The Giants went to three Super Bowls and won two during Gabriel’s time with the club.

Following the Giants appearance versus the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV, Greg became Director of College Scouting for the Chicago Bears under General Manager Jerry Angelo. He held that position until June of 2010. During his time with Chicago, the Bears won three Division titles and the 2006 NFC Championship. In his nine Drafts with the Bears, the team drafted 12 future Pro Bowl performers such perennial Pro Bowler Matt Forte, Tommie Harris, Devin Hester, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman.

In the 2012 – 2013 season, Gabriel was a consultant for the Philadelphia Eagles Scouting Department and has since done some small scouting roles for various NFL clubs.

Since leaving the NFL Gabriel has been a contributor for the National Football Post, the Bleacher Report and more recently Pro Football Weekly. He also is both a writer and contributor for WSCR (670the Score) in Chicago. The last three years he has authored the Pro Football Weekly Draft Guide.
Gabriel grew up in Amherst and is a 1974 graduate of Canisius College where he was a member of the football team. He and his wife Robin currently resides in the Chicago area.

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