By Jay Skurski
PITTSFORD -- All eyes, understandably, have been on EJ Manuel and Kevin Kolb in the competition to be the Buffalo Bills' starting quarterback this season.
While the job will likely still go to either the team's first-round pick or the seventh-year veteran signed as a free agent, a darkhorse has emerged in the race.
Undrafted free agent Jeff Tuel has put together a pair of solid preseason games in his role as third quarterback. Tuel is 21 of 26 for 236 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a quarterback rating of 130.1 in three quarters of play.
With the news that Manuel will miss the rest of the preseason following minor knee surgery today, I asked coach Doug Marrone if Tuel was now competing with Kevin Kolb for the starting job.
"I think at first what happens, it was interesting, when you draft, what we've seen publicly is a lot of the emphasis on obviously EJ and Kevin. Whether I miscommunicated that or that's what we wanted to see, I think if you go back and you look in the beginning, I said ‘Hey, I really like this kid we took from Washington State who's really done a good job,' " Marrone said. "Everyone was like, 'Ehh, what's he talking about?’ I think that we've seen that he's gone in there and he's really done a nice job."
Of course, it wouldn't make sense for Marrone to say anything else.
"At the end of the day, do I really want to say he’s in competition with that? Obviously I do because I want all of our players, not just Jeff, to understand that no matter where they may stand on the depth chart, they're fighting for the position to be a starter," the coach said. "I don't want our players to think 'Hey, I'm fighting for this position, he's the starter, maybe I could be No. 2 or 3.' My mind says once the player has limited himself to that he's not going to develop as far as he can.
"Yes, I want him to compete to be the starting quarterback. That's what is going to make him the best and then we'll evaluate if it's good enough for us to win with and where he ranks among that position, not just at the quarterback position, but also the roster."
Earlier in camp, Tuel got to work as the No. 2 quarterback behind Manuel because Kolb was out due to an injury and an excused absence.
"You hate to see a guy go down, but if you're doing anything in life, the more you do it, the better you're going to get at it. It's just a fact," he said. "I was really blessed with the opportunity to run with the twos and get those extra snaps in. I think it helped my game tremendously. I've said this from the beginning of the day I got here: I'm going to prepare like I'm the No. 1, whether I'm the three, two or No. 1 guy. I think that's the best way to approach the game. If the time comes and the opportunity presents itself, I'm going to be prepared."
taggedDoug Marrone | EJ Manuel | Jeff Tuel | Kevin Kolb