BBD Assistant Editor: Ryan Talbot
It’s not everyday that a team promotes their practice squad quarterback and asks him to start the following week. Yet with starting quarterback EJ Manuel out due to a sprained LCL in his right knee, that’s exactly what the Buffalo Bills are doing this week when Thad Lewis takes the field to play the Cincinnati Bengals. Was Lewis the correct choice for the Bills?
Editor Dan Hope, writer Joe Marino and I discussed whether or not Lewis was the right choice for the Bills this week, what to expect out of Lewis and if the team should monitor the free agent market in case Lewis struggles.
1. Did the Bills make the right decision in picking Lewis to start over Tuel?
Joe Marino: Yes. Tuel had an impressive outing in the first preseason game against the Colts but struggled mightily ever since. Lewis has at least started an NFL game and has been in the league since 2010. Lewis is also a dual threat quarterback which is valuable to the team given the situation. He can do things with his feet that Tuel cannot.
Dan Hope: Absolutely, in my opinion. Jeff Tuel was kept on the roster ahead of Lewis because he has more developmental potential, but his 8-for-20, 80-yard showing highlighted by a pick-6 against the Cleveland Browns was enough to show he is not ready for significant NFL game action yet. Lewis has NFL experience and is capable of stepping in and playing. He is a better option to start this week than any other quarterback they could have brought in, with the possible exception of Josh Freeman, because he has been with the team all year and should have a solid grasp of the offensive playbook and working with the Bills’ receivers by now.
Ryan Talbot: Yes, Lewis was the right choice. Lewis has been with the Bills since Aug. 26 and has had ample time to learn the team’s playbook. At this point in time, Lewis is simply more NFL-ready than Jeff Tuel. Also, Lewis did a commendable job starting a game for the Cleveland Browns last season against the Pittsburgh Steelers, limiting his mistakes. For these reasons, Lewis deserves the nod this week over Tuel.
2. Predict Lewis’ stat line and final score.
Marino: Lewis 16-25, 184 Yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. Bengals win 17-10.
Hope: Loaded question here, but I’ll say 11-of-25 for 135 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, plus four rushing attempts for 20 yards.
Keep in mind this is a Bengals defense that held Tom Brady without a touchdown for the first time in more than three years last week, and also to a completion percentage under 50 percent, no touchdowns and a 5.2 yards per passing attempt average. I can’t predict Lewis, a practice squad promotion working on an offense that has already been uninspiring, will fare better than Brady.
Final Score Prediction: Bengals 24, Bills 10.
Talbot: Lewis completes 15-of-24 passes for 170 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. On the ground, Lewis adds 30 yards on five rush attempts. Dan brings up a great point on how Tom Brady struggled against the Bengals, but I see Lewis throwing safer and shorter passes. The only other positive about Lewis is that he’s familiar with the Browns based upon his time with the Browns.
As for the final score, the Bills keep it close but lose 27-17.
3. If Lewis struggles should the Bills look at Matt Flynn or add Dennis Dixon to their active roster?
Marino: No. I think you have a better shot at Lewis improving with time and having the entire playbook at your disposal than bringing in a player from outside the organization.
Hope: Matt Flynn would be worth giving a call. While his window to compete for a long-term starting quarterback job should be over, he would still be at least a slight upgrade over Lewis and Tuel as a spot starter.
There’s no reason to elevate Dixon to the active roster unless the Bills are going to play him. If he picks up the system quickly and impresses in practice, that may become an option if Lewis struggles. But given Dixon’s uninspiring NFL career to date, the practice squad is probably where he belongs.
Talbot: The Bills should always be looking for ways to improve their roster, so I’m all for Buffalo kicking the tires on Matt Flynn next week. The quarterback position is obviously a spot where a team needs stability, so I’m rooting for Lewis to succeed.
As for Dixon, Dan hit the nail on the head. The only why Dixon gets called up is if he’s going to start and realistically, he’s going to need some time to learn the playbook.
Now it’s your turn.
Bills fans, what are your thoughts on Thad Lewis? Chime in on the comments thread below and let us know what you think the answers to these questions should be.