Buffalo Bills: You Never Know Who Is Going Into The Huddle

billsqbsSince the Buffalo Bills drafted EJ Manuel, I have been somewhat critical of the pick and have outlined scenario after scenario that has Kevin Kolb as Buffalo’s starting quarterback.  I believed Manuel was a reach at No. 16 overall and thought he had some serious flaws in his game.  Prior to the start of training camp I did not think he would not be ready to take the reigns as a rookie.

Yesterday, Manuel played well enough (especially during his last drive to end the first half) that I no longer will be making a case for Kolb as a starter.  Manuel’s touchdown throw to tight end Dorin Dickerson was a big league throw, EJ showed poise in the pocket, and when he had to run showed great speed and athleticism. What I most liked was that Manuel seemed to improve as the game went along.

And now there is this:

Jeff Tuel, the undrafted quarterback from Washington State (who I thought was brought into camp simply as a third arm needed for passing drills), stepped into the huddle to start the second-half of yesterday’s preseason game. Playing with primarily backups, all Tuel did was go 19 for 23 for 212 yards and two touchdowns.  He led the Bills on an impressive scoring drive to start the second half capped off by a six-yard touchdown pass to Da’Rick Rogers.  In the course of 30 minutes of NFL preseason football, Jeff Tuel got his name in the discussion.  He’s now a third arm who might have a shot at making this team.

The new question that will keep me up at night is if the Bills should keep two rookie quarterbacks.

My initial answer is, why not?

The Redskins did it last year with Robert Griffin III and fellow rookie signal caller Kirk Cousins.  It worked out well enough for the ‘Skins to go 10-6 and earn a playoff spot.  I don’t think there is any question that Manuel is the starter now, and will be the starter on opening day against the Patriots. He is the future, and showed the initial signs that he might just be a franchise quarterback.  In my mind that debate, for now, is over.

The real question is who backs up Manuel?  Saturday I would have said without a doubt Kolb and his veteran experience is needed on the bench behind EJ.  However, it’s now Monday, Kolb is still nursing a sore knee and it’s “Tuel time” in Buffalo.

New York Jets running back Curtis Martin — during his Hall of Fame induction speech — recalled once asking Bill Parcells if he should play because of an injury.  Parcells replied that he would never encourage someone to play hurt but reminded the star tailback of this:

“Be careful when you come out of the huddle because you never know who is going into the huddle.” 

Yesterday, we knew very little about Tuel as he walked into the huddle.  We know more now, and if he keeps playing the way he did yesterday, Kolb may be not get back in the huddle and — even more surprising — might not make this team.