Just a day before the Buffalo Bills were set to start minicamp, the team decided to release veteran quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. Bills beat writer Joe Buscaglia reported Jackson’s release via Twitter:
Tarvaris Jackson released by the #Bills— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) June 10, 2013
The move is a clear sign that rookie EJ Manuel will receive every opportunity to win the starting job from Kevin Kolb after being selected as the 16th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft. With Jackson gone, Manuel and Kolb will now see the majority of reps under center as the pace of the offseason picks up steam.
Bills lead journalist Chris Brown touched on that notion via BuffaloBills.com, calling the roster move a “plus” for the rookie signal-caller:
During OTA practices it was Tarvaris Jackson and Kevin Kolb getting the majority of the reps in team drills. EJ Manuel was third in terms of snaps in practice. That all changes now. With Jackson no longer on the roster Buffalo’s top draft choice will get a good deal of reps in practice in this week’s mandatory minicamp and training camp.
While most of the criticism of Manuel is that he is still very raw and unpolished as a technician, new Bills head coach Doug Marrone has praised his rookie passer. Marrone recently made headlines when he described Manuel as one of the best rookie quarterbacks he’s ever worked with. The Bills shared this quote on Twitter:
Marrone: "From my standpoint ... EJ Manuel has done better (as a rookie) than any of the other organizations I've been a part of"— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) May 31, 2013
At 6’5” and 240 pounds, with a strong arm and impressive mobility, Manuel certainly offers plenty of upside—something the Bills have desperately lacked over the past decade. He’s obviously still adjusting to the speed of the NFL and is learning the nuances of Buffalo’s offense, but he’ll now have more opportunities to see valuable reps and prove he is ready to take the reins from Day 1.
Nothing will be handed to Manuel, though. He’ll face legitimate competition from Kolb, who boasts 34 NFL games under his belt and is familiar with the West Coast offense, which will be featured under new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.
Kolb can also rest assured now that he’ll be a big part of Buffalo’s plan in 2013, whether that be as a starter or a backup.
That might seem obvious at first, but Kolb wasn’t necessarily guaranteed a roster spot after signing a meager veteran contract with only $1 million guaranteed. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio opined in April that Kolb and Jackson were likely “battling for the same roster spot,” and while Kolb was always the clear favorite in that regard, it’s now obvious that Buffalo trusts him as the veteran presence at the position.
Who will be the Bills' starting QB in Week 1?
As the lone quarterback with any NFL experience on the roster, Kolb will have a crucial role: He'll either serve as the starter while Manuel continues to develop, or he'll continue to mentor Manuel as his primary backup. Expect the latter to be the case once the regular season rolls around.
Buffalo’s decision to release Jackson also suggests that the Bills see enough potential in undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel, who now slides in as the No. 3 quarterback on the roster.
Tuel, who is 6’3” and 221 pounds, faces a good chance at making the final roster now with Jackson out of the picture. Joe Buscaglia believes that will ultimately be the case:
Remaining QBs on the roster are EJ Manuel, Kevin Kolb & Jeff Tuel. I'd imagine that likely stays the same right through to the season.— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) June 10, 2013
While keeping two rookie quarterbacks is somewhat of a risky move for a team with a brand new coaching staff, Buffalo’s confidence in Manuel and the experience Kolb possesses means it can take a chance on Tuel to develop. He totaled 5,936 career passing yards (61 percent completion percentage) in 26 starts at Washington State, tossing 33 touchdowns and flashing valuable speed at the position.
Jackson's time in Buffalo never quite went as planned since the Bills acquired him from Seattle, but with a new regime in place, the team has to look toward the future.
That future is about Manuel, and he’ll now have the opportunity to take many more valuable snaps before preseason play kicks off, as he navigates a clearer path to the starting quarterback job.