Following a 9-7 season that saw them barely miss out on an AFC Wild Card spot, the Buffalo Bills are considered by many to be a dark horse playoff team this season. They landed LeSean McCoy and Percy Harvin in the off-season, and their top-five defence should only improve under the defensive guile of new head coach Rex Ryan.
Unfortunately for Bills fans, the one glaring weakness in the Buffalo’s roster comes at the most important position on the field. With a little less than three weeks until their first game of the regular season, the Bills still haven’t named a starting quarterback. Matt Cassel, Tyrod Taylor, and EJ Manuel are all still in competition for the role, which doesn’t exactly bode well for Buffalo, despite their coach’s glass-half-full-attitude.
“This was the scenario I wanted,” Ryan told The Buffalo News on Tuesday. “I wanted a scenario where all three guys performed at a high level and I think we have. When you look at the games, I think all three guys have performed at a really high level, and so that’s what exactly I was wanting.”
Ryan may be enthusiastic, but a quarterback competition between these three is bleak.
In 2013, the Bills used the 13th overall pick on Manuel, who has had two up-and-down seasons plagued by interceptions and injuries. He’s thrown 15 TDs and 12 picks in 15 total games over two seasons. By using a first-round pick on him, the Bills clearly hoped he would turn into a franchise quarterback, and needless to say he hasn’t. During training camp this season, he’s struggled and hasn’t seen much time with the starters.
Manuel gets third team in 2-minute drill. Throws his first pass into the Bills’ corporate hospitality tent.
— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) August 12, 2015
Striking out on Manuel hurts the Bills immensely. They will likely start Taylor or Cassel against the Colts in Week 1, neither of whom are great options, either.
Before joining the Bills this off-season, Taylor spent four years as a backup in Baltimore, throwing 35 total passes. Although he’s not proven, he’s played well through two preseason games. In the first, he threw for 65 yards on 7-10 passing, and added 41 yards on the ground. He’s emerged as the fan favourite, but according to reports Taylor has only looks good because of how mediocre his fellow quarterbacks have been, not because he’s been anywhere close to exceptional.
If Taylor is inexperienced, Cassel by comparison is a veteran. Most famously, he led the Patriots to a 10-6 record in 2008 when Tom Brady while sidelined with a torn ACL, but his subsequently underwhelming stints in Kansas City and Minnesota did more for Bill Belichick’s reputation as a coach than Cassel’s as a quarterback. He’s a perfectly average game-manager, and with a strong defence and 2013 LeSean McCoy, a game-manager may be enough for Buffalo. Ryan took the Jets to two AFC Championships with Mark Sanchez this way. With a little less than three weeks until Week 1 and no great QB option coming into focus, Ryan will surely be hoping that he can do something similar in Buffalo.
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