BBD Editor: Dan Hope
Of all four preseason games, the third preseason game is supposed to be the closest to a regular-season game. Most starters around the league play for an entire half during Week 3 of the preseason, as NFL teams try to get their key players ready for regular-season action before resting them for the most part in the final preseason game on Thursday.
If Saturday’s game versus the Washington Redskins was any indication of how the Buffalo Bills will look when the real season begins, the Bills could be in for another long season. The Bills struggled mightily on both sides of the ball Saturday, and lost the game by a final score of 30-7.
That said, there’s no reason to harp on the final score: preseason results are ultimately meaningless and are often misleading. What are significant, however, are the reasons that the Bills ended up giving up so many points and scoring so few, as there were plenty of takeaways from Saturday’s game that could be cause for concern.
The biggest cause for concern is the quarterback situation. With rookie EJ Manuel sidelined following a knee injury, veteran Kevin Kolb started Saturday’s game. Kolb suffered a head injury in the first quarter, however, and left the game with concussion-like symptoms, leaving undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel to play the rest of the game as the Bills’ only healthy quarterback.
Tuel was impressive against backups in the Bills’ preseason opener, but he looked more like an undrafted rookie against the Redskins. While he did not make any egregious mistakes, he threw for just 62 passing yards on 17 attempts for a dismal average of just 3.6 yards per attempt.
Quite simply, Tuel did not make big plays in Saturday’s game. Nearly all of his passes were short throws, and he could not even string plays together to form a single scoring drive.
Coming into the game, many Bills fans were rightfully concerned about Kolb’s play and whether he could make a capable starter this season. But at this point, the Bills’ primary concern is just having Kolb and/or Manuel healthy for the season opener. Although either quarterback is likely to struggle early in the season, they are both better options than Tuel.
Should Kolb remain sidelined for the Bills’ preseason finale, it is almost certain that they will sign a free-agent quarterback this week, as they will not want to go into their preseason finale with only one quarterback available. That said, even the best quarterbacks on the free-agent market at this point are at best adequate backups.
Two potential candidates to be added to the roster are veteran free agents Matt Leinart and John Beck, who will work out with the Bills according to Fox Sports’ Mike Garafolo.
Kolb led the team on a solid 10-play, 56-yard touchdown drive prior to leaving the game Saturday. That drive certainly isn’t going to win him a starting job, on a day where his passing (two completions for 16 yards) and rushing attempts (two completions for 12 yards) were very similar. He also killed the Bills’ opening drive when he maneuvered himself into a sack outside the right call, on a play where he still had time to stand in the pocket and deliver a throw but showed poor pocket presence.
Unfortunately for the Bills, they have been deprived of having a full opportunity to evaluate their two potential starting quarterbacks this preseason. Both Manuel and Kolb have only played in three quarters this preseason, and in all likelihood, neither will appear in Thursday’s game versus the Detroit Lions.
At this point, the quarterback competition for Week 1 is going to come down to who is healthy. First and foremost, the Bills need either Kolb or Manuel to be healthy in time to play the New England Patriots on Sept. 8. From there, the Bills can continue to evaluate their quarterback competition until one of the two quarterbacks establishes himself as the rightful leader of the Bills offense.
Tags: Aaron Williams, Arthur Moats, C.J. Spiller, Chris White, Colin Brown, Da'Norris Searcy, Duke Williams, Game Reviews, Injuries, Jamaal Westerman, Jeff Tuel, Jonathan Meeks, Kevin Kolb, Leodis McKelvin, Marcell Dareus, Nickell Robey, Preseason, Preseason Takeaways, Ron Brooks, Shawn Powell, Stephon Gilmore, Stevie Johnson, Washington Redskins, Week 3