BBD Assistant Editor: Ryan Talbot
Every year after the NFL draft, discussions often revolve around what rookies can bring to their respective teams. It’s certainly a worthy conversation, but just as important can be the development of the players entering their sophomore seasons.
That is very true for the Bills, who have eight 2013 draft picks returning to the team along with two key undrafted free agents, Jeff Tuel and Nickell Robey.
This year’s look at the Bills’ second-year players begins with Tuel, who was signed by the team out of Washington State and went on to start a game last year.
Making the Team
When Buffalo’s undrafted free agent group was initially announced last year, most fans did not give much thought to Tuel, instead celebrating the fact that the Bills drafted Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel in the first round and signed Tennessee Tech wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers and USC cornerback Robey after the draft.
Tuel performed well in training camp for the Bills, who noticed his strong play and realized they might not be able to stash him on their practice squad. Instead, Tuel earned a roster spot on the 53-man roster as a backup quarterback.
Tuel played in two games in 2013. His best performance came in Week 9, when Tuel started his only game of the season against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Kansas City entered the game undefeated and featured one of the top defenses in the league. With the odds stacked against him, Tuel played decently in the first half. He completed five of his first seven passes, one of which was a deep touchdown pass to Marquise Goodwin. Buffalo actually led the game at halftime, 10-3, and on his first drive of the second half, Tuel drove the offense down to Kansas City’s 1-yard line before throwing an interception that Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith returned 100 yards for a game-tying touchdown.
That play, on which Stevie Johnson was wide open in the end zone for a potential touchdown, was a 14-point swing that led to the game turning in the favor of the Chiefs.
The Bills ended up losing 23-13, but aside from the interception, Tuel didn’t look like an undrafted rookie. He completed 18 of his 39 passing attempts for 229 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions, while he also rushed for 17 yards on three attempts.
Tuel’s other appearance for the Bills came in Week 5 against the Cleveland Browns, a game EJ Manuel started for Buffalo before he sprained his knee. At that point of the season, Tuel was the only other quarterback on the Bills roster, but upon entering the game, it was apparent that Tuel hadn’t been given many snaps in practice.
He struggled mightily, completing just 8 of 20 passing attempts for 80 yards, and he tossed an interception late in the game that resulted in a defensive touchdown. Tuel was also sacked twice. The Bills lost the game, 37-24.
Tuel isn’t likely to see any regular-season playing time this year. He’s currently the team’s No. 3 quarterback behind EJ Manuel and Thad Lewis.
Tuel’s roster spot should be safe for 2014. Buffalo didn’t draft any additional quarterbacks and although Kenny Guiton was brought in for the team’s rookie minicamp, he was not offered a contract. Although he is likely to have a limited role, Tuel should improve as a player in his second year.
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