With rookie first-round pick EJ Manuel nursing a knee injury and veteran quarterback Kevin Kolb suffering a potentially serious concussion during the Buffalo Bills' preseason game against the Washington Redskins on Saturday, the Bills may have to turn to undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel when the regular season commences.
According to Tim Graham of The Buffalo News, Bills head coach Doug Marrone is planning on starting Tuel when Buffalo opens regular-season play at home against the New England Patriots on Sept. 8:
Doug Marrone says plan is for Jeff Tuel to start against Patriots on opening day.— Tim Graham (@ByTimGraham) August 26, 2013
The quarterback position has been a mess for the Bills ever since Jim Kelly retired, and just when it seemed as though they had gathered ample talent and depth under center, they were hit with injuries.
To add depth, the Bills signed veteran quarterback Matt Leinart on Sunday. They also traded linebacker Chris White to the Detroit Lions for former Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today.
Due to the fact that Tuel has been in training camp and knows the Bills' playbook, however, the first crack at the starting job will go to him if Manuel and Kolb are unable to return in time.
Both Leinart and Lewis have been in the league longer than Tuel, but when it comes to experience with the Bills, Tuel has both of them beat. Because of that, Tuel considers himself to be the team's veteran quarterback at this point, according to the Bills' official Twitter account:
Jeff Tuel: "I'm the veteran now all of a sudden"— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) August 26, 2013
While it's impossible to tell how Tuel is really feeling about the prospects of starting Week 1, he believes that offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has prepared him well:
Tuel: "Coach Hackett has treated all the QBs equally. I've tried to concentrate on being a sponge, learn from others mistake"— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) August 26, 2013
By all accounts, Kolb's injury is the more serious of the two as his concussion is being viewed by the Bills as something that could possibly threaten his career, according to ESPN.com. Because of that, the organization plans to take a cautious approach, which almost certainly disqualifies him from starting against the Pats.
The injury occurred when Kolb was kneed in the helmet by a Redskins defender on Saturday, and while he stayed in to complete the drive, he did not return after that.
Manuel's knee procedure will keep him out for the team's preseason finale against the Detroit Lions, according to Will Brinson of CBS Sports, but his status beyond that is unclear.
Despite Marrone's revelation that Tuel is currently slated to be his Week 1 starter, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport tweeted on Sunday that Manuel's recovery has him on track to be ready for the opener:
From Total Access: #Bills rookie EJ Manuel still on track to start Week 1. Trying to figure out Kevin Kolb's viability. Several concussions— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 25, 2013
If the coaching staff decides to take a safe approach with Manuel, though, Tuel will be called upon to face the defending AFC East champions. Tuel, who joined the team as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Washington State, has been impressive through three preseason games with 299 yards and two touchdowns, but he may be overmatched when the real games start.
Tuel said he isn't used to throwing to the Bills' top receivers quite yet:
Tuel: will take some adjustments to learn to throw to WRs near top of depth chart. "I found myself throwing late to Stevie a couple times"— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) August 26, 2013
According to Bill Barnwell of Grantland.com, starting Tuel would be an unprecedented move, although it may ultimately prove to be a necessary one:
As far as I can tell, no QB since the merger has gone undrafted, went straight to the NFL, and started Week 1 before.— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) August 26, 2013
The Bills want to make history this season, but this obviously isn't the way they wanted to do it. Even so, Marrone and the Bills' coaching staff appear to be confident in Tuel should the current situation remain unchanged.
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