The Buffalo Bills could know early into this season if E.J. Manuel is their quarterback of the future or just another name in the carousel of failed signal callers since the departure of Jim Kelly.
The team’s 2013 first-round pick had an inconsistent rookie season, with some strong performances mixed with bad games and long stretches lost to injury. Coming into 2014 he is healthy and has a potent weapon in rookie wideout Sammy Watkins, leading many to think the team will offer only a short learning curve.
Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole suggested that the Bills are low on patience for E.J. Manuel, who will have completed a full season’s worth of games by Week 6. At that point the team will likely know if he has what it takes to succeed in the NFL.
If Manuel struggles during that time — or loses more time to injury — the Buffalo Bills may be quick to pull the trigger with new backup Kyle Orton. The Bills plucked Orton from free agency at the completion of the preseason, giving him a $5 million contract.
Many believe that Orton was brought on board to give Manuel the kind of competition he never had before. When he wasn’t injured last year, Manuel’s job was safe as the relatively inexperienced Thad Lewis was his primary backup, with undrafted rookie free agent Jeff Tuel taking the No. 3 spot.
Orton joined the team Labor Day weekend and has already been named backup to starter E.J. Manuel. The Bills open the season Sunday in Chicago, and coach Doug Marrone said Orton has learned enough of the offense to play the No. 2 spot.
“I think you’d be surprised of what he can do. I think we’ll go work during the week and see how much he feels comfortable with handling,” Marrone said. “Probably more than what most people think because of his experience.”
Though his leash may be short, EJ Manuel could have a chance to make an early statement. After a difficult matchup with the Chicago Bears on opening weekend, the Bills have winnable contests against the Dolphins, Texans and Lions sandwiched around a difficult game against San Diego.