When it comes to the Buffalo Bills' priorities during this week off from the grind of practice, it starts with following the money.
Plain and simple. Follow the money.
The Bills just handed quarterback Josh Allen a $258 million contract extension. That means they need to stop putting him in so many situations where he has to take off and hurdle defenders, like he did successfully against the Kansas City Chiefs and not so successfully against the Tennessee Titans.
Those plays are instinctive with incredible improvised creativity. They're also going to land him on the injured reserve list, no matter how big and strong and durable he is now.
Sure, the Bills want Allen to hold the ball longer than, say, Sam Bradford. They want him to use his legs to extend plays. They even need him to run on designed calls.
But the hits on a quarterback often are cumulative. That quasi-Fosbury flop he pulled against the Titans on third down during the decisive final series Monday night was beyond cringe-worthy.
Even had he picked up the first down there and the Bills went on to win it, the truth is that at some point the risk-reward factor will start to work against Allen and the Bills.
Although there have been exceptions, Allen is not as effective scrambling to his left, either. So the Bills, who have reworked the right side of their offensive line by moving Daryl Williams inside to guard and inserting rookie Spencer Brown at tackle, will need to do whatever they can to prevent him from having to go that way too often.
Better pre-snap communication can go a long way toward keeping Allen cleaner as well.
An example of a breakdown in that area came on a noteworthy play that didn't count, thanks to a senseless penalty on Titans linebacker David Long.
The Bills were in the spread with an empty backfield and no tight ends. The Titans' most dangerous defender and leading sacker, Harold Landry, was lined up in a two-point stance outside left tackle Dion Dawkins' left shoulder.
But when Long creeped up to the line inside Landry before the snap with the intent to blitz, Dawkins went for him, leaving Landry with an unblocked path to the quarterback for a sack that Long finished off by circling around and putting a helmet-to-helmet hit on Allen, whose forward progress had already been stopped.
Not sure what the Bills' options were on that play, or even if Dawkins was wrong to choose Long over Landry, but the two adjustments we could see to what the Titans presented were: A). For slot receiver Cole Beasley, who was closest to Landry on the snap, adjust his route to the left flat to give Allen a chance to get rid of the ball right away. B). For Allen to take off around the right side, where he might have been able to do some damage with a keeper before getting out of bounds and avoiding a hit.
Coach Sean McDermott remains confident the Bills still have the best five offensive linemen starting now.
"I think it's an ongoing evaluation," McDermott told Bills Central, "and I thought there were some moments last night -- listen ... we passed the ball a lot last night, and I thought they did a good job in some of those. There were a couple plays, one play in particular where it impacted the the game, where they got to our quarterback there [on an interception in which Allen's arm was hit as he threw] and it affected the game, the outcome of the game.
"So such is the life of an offensive lineman, you know, in the National Football League in particular. So I appreciate the way that those guys battle. We're going to continue to improve our football team and they're going to continue to improve as well, and I have full confidence in those guys."
Reducing the hits on Allen will go a long way toward his preservation and ability to perform just as well on the back end of his contract as the beginning.
Because with Allen, the most important ability is availability.