When the Buffalo Bills drafted E.J. Manuel in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, they made a clear declaration that he was the team’s quarterback of the future. What they didn’t do though is name him the quarterback of the present with head coach Doug Marrone preferring to see both Manuel and free agent signee Kevin Kolb battle it out for the starter’s job.
Early in training camp, Kolb slipped on a rubber mat between practices field’s at the Bills training facility at St. John Fisher University, and Manuel was able to get the majority of first team reps in practice, as well as a full half of football in the Bills first pre-season game against the Indianapolis Colts. The rookie quarterback completed 16 of 21 passes for 107 yards with one touchdown in his NFL debut and also showed some of the mobility that made him so attractive to the Bills at the draft rushing for a 24 yard third down pickup on a drive that led to a Bills field goal in the first quarter.
Kolb returned to practice this week and Marrone and the coaching staff gave him the same opportunity to start and play the entire first half against the Minnesota Vikings, leaving Manuel to play part of the second half of the game, and some time for third string Bills quarterback Jeff Tuel to mop it up at the end of the game. Kolb was less than impressive going 13-of-21 passing for 111 yards and throwing an interception, though he did lead a pair of late first half field goal drives.
Meanwhile when Manuel came in to start the second half, he immediately led the Bills offence to the endzone going 6 for 6 on the drive which ended with a touchdown pass to Brad Smith. Manuel would finish 10 of 12 passing for 92 yards and a touchdown.
Overall Manuel is 26 of 33 passing for a 78.8 completion percentage and 199 yards passing including two touchdowns for a passer rating of 111.9 in his two preseason games. Kolb meanwhile finished with a passer rating of 58.3.
While Marrone is apparently still not ready to name a starter, any objective observer can see that Manuel is clearly in the drivers seat. While its only preseason, he is definitely making a case that the future of the Bills quarterback position is now. A third good game against Washington next Saturday in the Bills third preseason game would all but lock up the job from where I sit.
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