Jeff Tuel's Playing Time Poses Dilemma for Buffalo Bills in Preseason Week 4

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Jeff Tuel's Playing Time Poses Dilemma for Buffalo Bills in Preseason Week 4
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Bills QB Jeff Tuel (above) could be the team's Week 1 starter, but how will the Bills manage his playing time in the preseason finale?

As we speak, the Buffalo Bills' entire quarterback situation is one giant dilemma. Rookie first-rounder EJ Manuel is nursing a knee injury. Veteran Kevin Kolb suffered a concussion that could end his career

Enter undrafted free-agent Jeff Tuel, who has been penciled in as the Week 1 starter according to head coach Doug Marrone and is now primed to become the first undrafted rookie quarterback to start Week 1 in the modern era.

Now, the Bills face a new dilemma: what to do with Tuel in the final preseason game.

On one hand, they could use the game to give Tuel as much playing time as possible with the first-team offense. That would make sense, given the possibility that he could be asked to start Week 1. Tuel has only played with the second- and third-team offensive groupings in the team's three preseason games to date and could use some live game action to get on the same page with a different group of players. 

On the other hand, the Bills are already down to their third-string quarterback and would probably rather not open themselves up to the possibility of the last quarterback standing getting injured in a meaningless preseason game (er-hem, Jets).

Unless they plan on not playing him at all, there's the potential risk that he could get injured. The Bills will have to assess how they feel about that risk and take the necessary action one way or the other.

Tuel has earned plenty of playing time in the preseason, with 107 total snaps, the most of any quarterback on the roster. 

He has been very efficient to this point, going 31-of-43 passing (72.1 percent) for 299 yards (6.95 YPA), two touchdowns and a 106.6 passer rating. He has shown command of the Bills offense and should be considered just as good an option as Kevin Kolb would have been if he were healthy.

No one is going to confuse him with EJ Manuel, though. He doesn't have the arm strength of his first-round compatriot, and although he has enough mobility to extend plays with his legs, he's not going to reel off any "wow" runs.

Tuel isn't going to evolve into a brand-new quarterback simply by playing more in the preseason finale, but the game reps with the first-team offense could go a long way in building rapport between Tuel and his receivers and also building Tuel's confidence.

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The Bills' best bet might be to let Tuel play through the first half and then to send in Matt Leinart or Thaddeus Lewis to finish up the game. Most teams played their starters at least through the first half of the third preseason game. Combined with two weeks of practice with the first-team offense, Tuel should be able to get moderately comfortable throwing to the top receivers on the team. 

Either way, it should come as a shock to no one if the Bills have a heavy dose of running back C.J. Spiller in store for the Patriots on September 8.

 

 

Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.

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