Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
The Buffalo Bills will have a new starting quarterback this season.
Right now, it is unclear whether that will be veteran free-agent addition Kevin Kolb or rookie EJ Manuel, but the early buzz is pointing in favor of the rookie.
Manuel looked "spectacular" in one of the Bills’ first practices on Monday, according to Les Carpenter of Yahoo! Sports. In the same practice, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King said that Manuel looked "comfortable, confident, strong-armed and accurate."
Kolb’s inaccuracy, meanwhile, has made it look at times “like he was trying to complete passes to the water cooler,” according to Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News.
Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 wrote on Wednesday that Manuel has been “clearly the better on the field” of the two quarterbacks. He also noted that it would be “awfully tough for Manuel to be worse than Kolb over the past three days.”
Buscaglia said that Kolb has “never looked comfortable in the pocket” and that Manuel “may not be that far away” from winning the starting quarterback job.
All of that said, it is important not to overreact to the two quarterbacks’ early practices. Kolb has six seasons of NFL experience, including 21 starts, while Manuel is new to the league. Additionally, Marrone said on Monday that Kolb has been seeing “more of the exotic stuff” from the Bills defense—meaning, their usual starters and blitzing packages—than Manuel has seen, according to Skurski.
This battle is likely to continue through at least the first one or two preseason games for the Bills. But if Manuel can continue to impress and outperform Kolb in those preseason games, the Bills should not hesitate in handing the starting reins to their rookie quarterback.
Manuel is attempting to continue a trend that has seen 10 of the last 15 first-round quarterback draft picks start in Week 1 of their rookie NFL seasons. He may continue to be a work in progress as a rookie quarterback, but he has much better physical tools and far more upside than Kolb does at this point.