Buffalo Bills Rumors: Starting Quarterback Competition Is Now A Two Player Race As E.J. Manuel Drops To Third String?

The Buffalo Bills entered off-season workouts not knowing if any of their three quarterbacks would step up and take control of the starting quarterback job. Things looked the same at the start of training camp, however, there now appears to be some separation in the battle.

The Buffalo News is reporting that, while coach Rex Ryan won’t declare E.J. Manuel out of the quarterback competition, the fact that the 2013 first round selection worked exclusively with the third unit in practice on Sunday paints that sort of picture.

Manuel, who had some good moments against Carolina in exhibition game No.1, will work exclusively with the third unit against the Browns according to Ryan.

“He’s going to get the majority of the game running with that group this second preseason game, so that’s the reasoning behind it. Does that mean he won’t get the two reps? No. It doesn’t mean that at all, but is want we wanted to do. We’re going to put Tyrod in and mix in Matt. As the week goes on, don’t be surprised if he does get some two’s.”

“I know you guys want to look into anything, but I don’t think you need to. We’ve been working this thing for how long now? It’s been the same type of rotation for probably three weeks.”

Against Carolina, Manuel overcame some early mistakes by the offense — dropped passes and bad snaps — to complete 4-of-8 passes for 77 yards. He had the best throw of the game, connecting with Deonte Thompson on a 51-yard toss that resulted in a touchdown. However, Manuel also had the worst throw of the game, underthrowing a wide open Nick O’Leary by three-or-four yards as he rolled left out of the pocket.

With Manuel essentially out of the competition, it is up to either Tyrod Taylor or Matt Cassel to make their claim for the position. Both quarterbacks looked good against Carolina and in practi as they split reps with the first unit on Sunday. Taylor will get the start against Cleveland while Cassel, who started the game against Carolina, will be the second quarterback into the game.

Taylor is considered the wildcard due to inconsistency and big play potential. Against the Panthers, Taylor completed 5-of-8 passes for 49 yards and added another 47 yards on the ground. More importantly, Taylor directed the Bills to two of their three touchdowns.

Taylor was also sharp on Sunday. He hit Charles Clay (40-45 yards) up the seam for a deep gain of 11, and then Sammy Watkins on a dime over the shoulder with Ronald Darby in near-perfect coverage.

Cassel is considered the “safe” option for the Bills as he won’t “wow you” but also won’t make the unforgiving mistake. Against Carolina, Cassel did what he does which is throw high percentage passes, moves the chains and make very few mistakes. He finished the game 7-for-8 for 45 yards.

Cassel did show that he still does have the ability to make the big play on Sunday.

The competition for the No. 1 spot is far from over. However, if Taylor shows he can complete a high percentage of his throws he will likely win the job — which the Bills likely prefer. Unless Cassel has a complete meltdown, he would likely be the backup when the season started leaving Manuel’s future in serious doubt. Matt Simms is the fourth quarterback on the roster and is projected to be destined for the Bills’ practice squad.

(photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)