BBD Staff Writer: Ryan Talbot
The Buffalo Bills announced Saturday afternoon that rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel will miss the remainder of the preseason. Manuel had swelling in his left knee and is undergoing a minor procedure to fix the problem. According to FOX Sports’ Peter Schrager, Manuel had the procedure on Sunday morning and does not need crutches, but will be out 2-4 weeks.
The injury came at a time where Manuel was extending his lead in the quarterback competition. Now, everything has changed.
What does Manuel’s injury mean to the Bills?
First, it means that it’s very likely that Kevin Kolb will be Buffalo’s Week 1 starter against the New England Patriots. If Manuel were a veteran, missing two weeks of preseason football and three weeks of practice may not stop him from starting against the Patriots on Sept. 8. As a rookie, however, that is a significant amount of time regardless of how well Manuel has looked during the preseason.
Could Manuel still start for Buffalo against the Patriots? Yes, but Kolb would have to play beyond poorly for that to happen. It’s important to remember that Kolb proved last season that he is capable of beating the Patriots, leading the Cardinals to a 20-18 win in Week 2. Kolb’s numbers weren’t fantastic and the Cardinals defense played a significant role in the win, but the veteran managed the game well enough to get the win. For Kolb, Manuel’s injury gives him one last chance to be a starter in the NFL.
Kolb isn’t the only quarterback on the roster who benefits from Manuel’s injury. Undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel, who is having a strong training camp and preseason, should be considered a lock to make Buffalo’s roster now. Tuel already deserved a roster spot regardless of Manuel’s injury, but this should cement his roster spot.
When Buffalo enters the regular season, the team will want a healthy option in case Kolb is injured or ineffective. Tuel fits the bill (pun intended). There is no doubt that the Bills are aware of the extent of Manuel’s injury, but it is unknown whether Manuel will be 100 percent for the start of the season. Even if Manuel is active for the game, having Tuel as a third option is not a bad plan. Kolb only played in 15 games for the Cardinals over the last two seasons due to injury.
Regardless of who is under center for the Bills against the Patriots, the team’s game plan should be run-heavy. While Buffalo’s defense has looked promising, the best defense against Tom Brady is keeping him off the field. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are two guys who are certainly capable of doing this. Feed your backs and move the chains.
The sooner Manuel is declared ready the better, but at least Buffalo has a viable veteran and another promising rookie waiting in the wings.