Despite rumors, EJ Manuel still battling with Matt Cassel Tyrod Taylor to lead the Bills offense
The QB competition has kicked off in Buffalo with the arrival of the Rex Ryan era.
This defensive mastermind has been quoted as saying he’s more focused on beating New England than who’s under center.
It’s an ambitious aim, given New England’s dominance over the last decade, but if any coach has given the Patriots trouble, it’s been Ryan and his intricate blitz strategies.
There’s currently a three-way race for the QB position in Buffalo, but that dynamic will likely shift soon.
Early signs suggest the Bills weren’t pleased with E.J. Manuel’s performance.
This became evident when the Bills acquired Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor to challenge the 2013 first-round pick from Florida State.
If Manuel had impressed the Bills and Ryan, they would have likely only brought in one QB for competition.
The Bills’ roster currently boasts four quarterbacks, which could be halved by September.
The fourth QB is Jeff Tuel, an undrafted player in his third year who has seen some regular season action but is most likely to be the odd one out… or, in this case, the fourth man.
Earlier this week, reports suggested that Manuel had already lost favor and might be at risk of not making the roster.
Bills OC Greg Roman addressed this on Tuesday in an interview with http://www.syracuse.com/, boldly denying the rumor, stating, “It couldn’t be further from the truth.”
He also emphasized, “I think it’s too early to say there is a leader at QB right now.”
In Roman’s defense, the notion that a quarterback competition could be settled during pre-OTA and minicamp workouts appears to be a flimsy rumor.
During this period, quarterbacks aren’t actively engaged in typical team drills.
It’s widely acknowledged that Manuel was part of a relatively weak quarterback draft class.
Aside from Geno Smith, a second-round pick, there isn’t another QB from the 2013 class who seems poised to start this season.
Some scouts would have graded Manuel as a fourth-round pick compared to the 2012 class that included Griffin, Luck, Wilson, and Tannehill.
In all fairness to Manuel, the stellar performance of the 2012 QB class didn’t diminish the expectations for the Bills to contend for the playoffs in his first year.
There was a belief that there was still considerable growth potential.
Manuel happened to follow what could be considered one of the best QB classes in NFL history, making his performance appear more uneven by comparison.
The expectations placed on a team that needed to address multiple areas beyond the quarterback position were perhaps too optimistic, and Manuel bore a significant portion of the blame.
It’s important to remember that he battled through an LCL injury, which led to him missing five weeks of the season.
Coping with a lingering injury is particularly challenging for a young quarterback who relies on his mobility. However, this was only the beginning of his struggles.
However, this brings us to the present moment, where the job is on the line.
The prevailing belief is that by a quarterback’s third season, they should be able to showcase their full potential.
However, this may not be the case for Manuel. He’s grappled with injuries and the challenges of development. Now, he’ll have to compete against two players Ryan and his team hold in high regard through divided practice repetitions.
Cassel brings a wealth of NFL experience, having earned Pro Bowl honors and a deep understanding of the “Patriot Way.”
If Ryan is looking for a quarterback to take on the Patriots, Cassel is the starting point.
On the other hand, Taylor exhibits considerable promise from his limited playtime in Baltimore and preseason performances.
His athleticism provides a swift solution to problems. One thing that New England coach Bill Belichick despises, aside from the media, is mobile quarterbacks.
Taylor’s ability to run also compels a defense to account for him in the running game, giving the Bills an additional blocker to open up running lanes.
While it might seem unusual for an organization to trade or release a first-round pick after only two seasons, there are no longer strong ties to Manuel in Buffalo.
Even GM Doug Whaley, who played a role in scouting Manuel, didn’t step into the GM position until after Buddy Nix had drafted the former Seminole.
To say that EJ faces an uphill battle in the coming months would be an understatement.
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another
The quarterback competition in Buffalo initially holds benefits, but there’s a point where it can become detrimental.
A football team’s essence often hinges on the quarterback position. Regardless of how hard defensive-minded coaches may try, they cannot deny that the quarterback is a uniquely pivotal position in all of sports.
It is the realm of leaders. For the Bills to thrive this season, they should name a starter before training camp.
There’s sufficient time during OTAs and minicamps to discern their definitive choice.
Interestingly, the other AFC East team in New York, the Jets, seem to have opted for an early decision, vocally favoring Geno Smith as their anticipated starter.
Many initially believed it would be an open QB competition, but Jets management attempts to present a different narrative with their public remarks.
Making a decision sooner rather than later allows the starter to build rapport with their receiving corps.
The offensive line, especially the center, can synchronize with the quarterback’s cadence and communication style.
In times of adversity, the Bills’ locker room needs a singular leader to turn to.
Indecision could lead to division in the locker room, and a divided team can never achieve its full potential.
Despite the rumors, likely, the competition is still open.
Nevertheless, regardless of Ryan’s choice, the ultimate decision will hinge on who gives the Bills the best shot at defeating New England.
Whoever that may be should begin their preparations sooner rather than later if they aim to surpass the reigning Super Bowl champions.