While we have focused on who is starting for teams like the Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys and whether or not the New York Jets will keep four quarterbacks, there has been a quiet battle raging in Northern New York.
Yes, we’re talking about who is backing up Tyrod Taylor for the Buffalo Bills.
The team has to know what they have behind him and not just in case of injury. Despite his six-year, $92 million extension, Taylor is not assured anything, including keeping the job. Those numbers may look great, but the reality is that this contract is a one-year deal, and if the team wants to move on after this season, they can.
So what happens behind him matters both in the long and short term.
Who will be his backup? Will it be the veteran and former first-round pick EJ Manuel? Or is it rookie Cardale Jones?
On the surface, one would think Manuel is the easy choice. He’s got experience, he’s more of a finished product and Jones has been banged up the last few weeks.
However, Manuel is clearly not the future. He’s a bust, as far as draft position goes, and he’s not this regime’s pick. If they had faith in him, they might have given him more of a chance last season, but as it stands, Taylor supplanted him. Remember that until last season, Taylor was an afterthought in the NFL.
And Manuel couldn’t beat him out. Manuel hasn’t improved all that much as he enters his fourth year in the NFL with his inaccuracy and mechanical issues continuing to plague him.
That isn’t to say Jones is a polished prospect himself, with similar issues around accuracy, pocket presence and mechanics. Unlike Manuel, however, Jones is at the beginning of his NFL career. He doesn’t have three years of getting used to the speed of the game, his receivers and the overall work that goes into a season.
Manuel has been here, and he isn’t all that much better than Jones is pretty significant. Especially since, before he hurt his shoulder, Jones was already looking more comfortable than he did this past spring.
If he can get some practice reps and continue to improve, seeing him behind Taylor by the end of the year wouldn’t be a surprise.
That’s down the road, though, and what this should come down to is experience. Yes, Manuel is really of limited value to the Bills. And in reality, he’s not that far ahead of Jones in terms of skill, technique and ability.
Experience is the difference maker here, though. While Jones has upside, throwing him into the fire if Taylor got hurt would be foolish. While the Bills aren’t quite in “win now” mode, and there is something to the theory that when your starting quarterback goes down, you might as well call the season quits, the defense is the engine that drives this team, not the offense or quarterback.
The Bills would need a guy who will react well under pressure and, if not, lead them to victory and carry the team on their back, at least not lose games for them.
Manuel has the experience to handle that, whereas it is a lot to ask of Jones in his first year.