What to Expect from Jeff Tuel as the Buffalo Bills' Starting Quarterback
Yeah, Tuel, an undrafted free-agent signal-caller who played his college ball at Washington State.
Head coach Doug Marrone was quoted by the team's official Twitter account on the quarterback situation:
Marrone: Plan now is for QB Jeff Tuel will start week 1 against the New England Patriots.— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) August 26, 2013
We must realize that Marrone made the only logical comment for the time being. How much sense would it have made if he named Manuel the starter while the first-round pick isn't available to practice?
Not much sense, if any at all.
With a full offseason, training camp and three preseason games in Buffalo's up-tempo offense, Tuel had to be the Bills starter as the team started its prep work for Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Co.
However, if nothing changes over the next two weeks in regard to Manuel's health, Tuel will trot out onto the field in arguably the biggest season-opening, David vs. Goliath quarterback matchup in the history of the NFL.
The offense won't be changed with Tuel under center. Offensive coordinator Nate Hackett has installed a fast-paced, West Coast-style system for all his quarterbacks to run—although there probably won't be as many read-option wrinkles.
While Tuel isn't in the same league as Manuel athletically, he's far from a statue in the pocket.
Here's a highlight reel from his days at Washington State. The first pass proves he can improvise if need be, and the second play shows that, despite not having a big arm by NFL standards, he can let it fly down the field.
Here's where Tuel was ranked by some notable draftniks and websites before the NFL draft:
- Matt Miller, Bleacher Report - No. 13
- Todd McShay, ESPN - No. 22
- Walter Cherepinsky, Walter Football - No. 17
- CBS Sports - No. 12
- DraftTek - No. 17
Against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 of the preseason, Tuel completed 19 of 23 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
From that game, Tuel demonstrated that in Buffalo's rather simple passing offense that features packaged plays (described here by Chris Brown of Grantland.com), he can be a decisive and relatively accurate passer, especially on short-to-intermediate routes.
While Tuel doesn't have the arm strength to drive the ball into tight windows down the field, the speed the Bills have at wide receiver could help the young quarterback, as it's probably quite hard to overthrow T.J. Graham or Marquise Goodwin very often.
Tuel went 2-for-3 for 24 yards and took a sack against the Minnesota Vikings in the second exhibition outing. After Kevin Kolb left Buffalo's third preseason game against the Washington Redskins with a head injury, Tuel went 10-for-17 for 63 yards and missed a few vertical throws.
Regardless of who's under center for the Bills, the running game will be the focal point of the offense. It's important to remember that each one of Marrone's Syracuse Orange teams from 2009 to 2012 finished their respective seasons with more rushing attempts than passing attempts.
C.J. Spiller was one of the league's most electric running backs in 2012 and has touched the ball less than 500 times in his NFL career. Fred Jackson is a versatile backup who averaged 137.6 yards from scrimmage per game in 10 games in 2011, the second-highest average in the league.
Neither Manuel nor Tuel will be asked to win games outright for Buffalo this season with 45 passing attempts or 350-yard games. The Bills will rely on an efficient running game, yards after the catch and an improved defense more than anything else.
Tuel won't wow the masses from a physical standpoint, but Buffalo won't need to tweak its offense, and he won't be asked to do too much for the Bills if he starts this season anyway.
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