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Bills QB Peterman can prove self as starter vs. Ravens

Much of the preseason reports of the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills during the preseason focused around the quarterbacks -- who would stay, start or leave?

With the season opener Sunday at Baltimore, the Ravens and Bills have settled on their quarterback situation following some bold moves and decisions.

The Ravens also added depth behind veteran Joe Flacco.

The team selected Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson with the 32nd overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. Jackson, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2016, will be an understudy to Flacco until he can be the starter. Baltimore also added Robert Griffin III, keeping three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster for the first time since 2009.

Buffalo, meanwhile, opted to keep only two quarterbacks, naming Nathan Peterman the starter and rookie Josh Allen his backup. The Bills traded A.J. McCarron to the Raiders on Saturday as part of their roster reduction down to 53 players.

General manager Brandon Beane made the decision to go with two quarterbacks when the Raiders offered him a 2019 fifth-round pick for McCarron because they were displeased with their own backups, Connor Cook and EJ Manuel, both of whom were immediately released.

After a three-way battle dating until shortly after Allen was drafted by Buffalo in the first round, Peterman emerged the winner as the Bills' starting quarterback thanks to decent enough play in practice and preseason games. Peterman completed 33 of 41 passes for 431 yards with three TDs and one interception in three preseason games while McCarron struggled and Allen needed more experience.

"It makes it certainly gratifying as a coach to be able to reward a young man who has earned it," Buffalo coach Sean McDermott said of Peterman. "He went through some adversity. Not only last season but in his college career. We've all been through that. If you go through some adversity early in life, you're that much more prepared for it later in life and that to me, that becomes a character trait that's good to have."

The Ravens are confident they can make a run at the postseason this year with Flacco under center. Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome would like nothing more than to win a third title before assistant Eric DeCosta assumes the role as general manager nest season. Newsome is retiring after this season.

"We're trying to win this year. In order for us to win this year, we need Joe Flacco," Newsome said. "That's why we went and got the receivers. That's why we went and got the tight end -- to give Joe some help. So, we want to win this year."

The Ravens have been trending downward since winning the Super Bowl in 2013. The team has gone 40-40 and clinched one playoff berth since winning the title.

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh is feeling some pressure to get the team back on track. His job might depend on making the playoffs.

"I'm not going to give a 'playoff or bust' edict to my coach," owner Steve Bisciotti said. "He's under as much pressure, probably, then he's ever been in his life. I expect him to keep his chin up and take his positivity and his talents and make the most of this season."

The Ravens added veteran receivers John Brown and Michael Crabtree via free agency. Newsome also signed Willie Snead IV to a two-year offer sheet that the New Orleans Saints declined to match. Baltimore grabbed two tight ends -- Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews -- in the first three rounds of the draft. Hurts is out the opening three or four weeks with a fractured foot.

The Bills ended their 17-year playoff drought in 2017. A repeat would be surprising. There are big questions up and down the roster, none of which were really solved during training camp and the preseason.

The Peterman decision provides clarity, but he remains a player a long way from being a polished, viable NFL starter, and unless he shocks the world and plays above his fifth-round status, the Buffalo offense could be the worst in the NFL.

The offensive line is weak with the exception of second-year left tackle Dion Dawkins, and the receiving corps is almost completely devoid of playmakers. LeSean McCoy is the lone big-time player, and at 30 years old, while he's still very good, you have to wonder how he'll hold up when every defense will be geared specifically to stop him.

On defense, the Bills struggled to stop the run in 2017, and it's unclear if they'll be any better this year. They addressed the problem by signing free agent Star Lotulelei and drafting Harrison Phillips to bulk up the tackle spots and join forces with Kyle Williams, and they also drafted linebacker Tremaine Edmunds to man the middle of the defense.

Updated September 5, 2018

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