by Mario Granata
The unfortunate thing that happens, as far as football fans are concerned, is that when a team has 7 months off, all the speculation that happens boils over after the first preseason game. Bills fans are no different as the longing for a quarterback in the 716 has been evident for the past decade-and-a-half. When breaking down the game, and the three participants involved one starts to get a glimpse at how they performed and who is the leader in the clubhouse. Keep in mind that this IS the preseason.
Matt Cassel – When speaking with many Bills’ fans the debate will rage over EJ Manuel and Tyrod Taylor and Cassel is almost an afterthought, despite going 7-8 with a dropped pass to Chris Hogan. Why do you ask? Because what Cassel did was very simple. There was nothing astonishing that Cassel did other than lead his team, which is what a quarterback is supposed to do. Cassel had 17 plays on 2 drives that totaled 0nly 60 yards, but the more impressive number was the 11:42 in time of possession that they Bills managed. That is a highly impressive number, one that fits Greg Roman’s philosophy and will be one that keeps the Bills defense fresh, and those high-octane offenses of the opponents off the field. While it wasn’t flashy, it did get the job done.
Tyrod Taylor – Many times in the NFL they refer to running backs as “change-of-pace” backs that complement the skill set of the starter. This is where Tyrod would fit in, however a closer look at the play of Taylor and you will see that is he is more of a running back than a quarterback. While people will marvel at his first series being a touchdown drive, Taylor ran the ball 3 times and had one incomplete pass. Those are, dare I say, Colin Kaepernick numbers.
On his second drive, the Bills also were able to score on an impressive 90-yard drive. Taylor went 3-4 on the drive with two of his completions going to running backs. His one incomplete pass came on a missed deep ball to Deonte Thompson (which his missed Goodwin as well on a deep pass).
For those of you who want an inside glimpse of throwing to running backs, if there is a back on your team that is not well versed at picking up the blitz, and a quarterback that is only making half-field reads, it’s a good idea to throw the back on a quick out route to give the quarterback a safety valve to the same side he is reading. This was the case with Taylor, and has been with Kaepernick during his time in San Francisco. While many will marvel at the running ability of Taylor as a passer he left more questions on the field then he answered against Carolina.
EJ Manuel – Manuel could almost be called the John Cena of the Buffalo Bills. For those of you who aren’t up on the WWE, every time John Cena enters an arena half of the people are booing him while the other half cheer him. This is perfect for Manuel as the general consensus around Buffalo is the same. People who like EJ will be very impressed with his 51-yard touchdown strike on a perfect pass (something that has been a question mark for him his first two seasons) while others will say it was against the 3rd and 4th team players. Well for those of you who are naysayers, if Manuel was the best of the worst, and you feel he is the worst of the best, that makes him an average quarterback (which would be an upgrade over what many of the “EJ Haters” have him as right now). EJ, being the 3rd quarterback in, was in a no win situation, and with the word that Tyrod is starting against the Browns (and a Mike Pettine coached team and especially defense) there isn’t going to be anything different from what Taylor see’s in practice everyday. (For those of you who need a history lesson, Pettine was Ryan’s understudy for a number of years.)
Depending on who you think should be the starter or who performed the best, the fact remains that for the past 4 seasons Greg Roman has had a drop back quarterback who doesn’t make mistakes and completes high percentage throws, and another who is exciting running the ball. The one season that he had both of those options, the 49ers went to the Super Bowl. Is he trying to recreate that here in Buffalo, or does he think that he can develop that hybrid in EJ Manuel? Whatever happens, Bills fans will voice their opinion on who they want. If you are on Team Cassel, you were probably a fan of Alex Smith. If you are on Team Tyrod, you are probably a fan of Colin Kaepernick. If you think that EJ Manuel could be the guy who can be efficient and use his legs when he needs to, then you are probably with the Buffalo Bills front office who drafted him as the only quarterback in the first round. Wherever you are, you have to love the fact that until Greg Roman figures it out, there is a Top-5 defense that the team will lean on in the interim.