The Buffalo Bills have a legitimate quarterback battle being waged in training camp right now.
As most training camp battles go, you have the veteran and the young gun fighting it out for the starting job.
Journeyman Kevin Kolb would take the veteran role, as the 2013 season will be his seventh go round in the NFL. It is interesting to note that through those seven seasons, Kolb has only 21 starts under his belt. The 2011 season, by far his best, saw the then Arizona Cardinal toss for 1,955 yards and nine touchdowns with a 57.7 completion percentage and an 81.1 quarterback rating in nine games played.
Last season, Kolb led the Cardinals to a 4-0 start but suffered a rib injury in Week 6 and sat out the rest of 2012. However, he will be a fierce competitor to our next contestant and look to win the starting position.
Standing in his way will be the young gun, rookie EJ Manuel. The Florida State product was chosen by the Bills with the 16th pick in the 2013 NFL draft, the first quarterback taken. It was a surprise selection for sure. But there was a valid reason behind Manuel being drafted.
In 2012, his senior season, the Seminole threw for 3,397 yards and 23 touchdowns with a 68.0 completion percentage and a 156.0 quarterback rating while starting all 14 games. The versatile athlete also added 310 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
The Bills weren’t the best of teams last season, finishing 6-10 with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. Now the team has a chance to go one of two separate ways. Both quarterbacks have their strengths and both have their weaknesses.
Fans want the best player for their beloved team, but they can also be impatient. Thankfully, new coach Doug Marrone has informed the press that he will choose a starter 10 days before the season opens.
That starter will be Manuel, the young gun.
Buffalo clearly recognized the need to enter a rebuilding phase. That is why the team hired a fresh head coach in Marrone, drafted a quarterback in the first round and picked up another one in the offseason.
Many in the football community, including me, recognize Kolb as a decent player, but one that can only play for a couple games plugging up holes in a backup role.
Manuel will give the Bills the best chance to start anew.
They can mold him, shape him and develop him in any way they want. That is something that can’t be done with Kolb.
It won’t be Kolb to lead Buffalo into a new era of greatness. Philadelphia knew that and traded him to Arizona and the Cardinals learned that the hard way.
He now finds himself with the Bills, who would be best served to keep him as a backup. The journeyman gives them a good chance to win a couple games, but that isn’t what Buffalo needs. It needs a young quarterback who can be its poster boy for the future.
The Bills should be more likely to hand the reins over to Manuel based on the recent success of rookie quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton and Andy Dalton.
Manuel would bring a new phase of rebuilding and development into Buffalo. Quite frankly, that is exactly what the team needs right now.
The Bills should throw the rookie into the fire starting in Week 1 and let Marrone iron out the kinks. It will be better than getting nowhere with Kolb.
Manuel will have his amazing moments and some that are cringe worthy. Nonetheless, he is the right option for the future of this franchise.
Plus, the kid can play.
As mentioned before, he is a legitimate dual-threat quarterback. That breed is in high demand in today’s NFL.
He has a powerful arm and is physically gifted. The 6’5”, 237-pound quarterback is big but also mobile and can escape from the pocket. Additionally, he is experienced as Manuel led a pro-style system under head coach Jimbo Fisher at Florida State.
He can also win. Manuel took the Seminoles to a 12-2 record in 2012 and tacked on a critical Orange Bowl victory over Northern Illinois. Scouts pointed to him being a team leader as well as noticing his athletic abilities and physical skill.
If you don’t believe me, this is what Marrone had to say about Manuel after the team drafted him, according to Sharon Katz of ESPN.
“Well I think you could start listing many things. He can throw the football vertically down the field, he has a good arm, he can get himself out of trouble, he can create things with his feet, he has good presence in the huddle, he’s accurate and we are excited to have him.”
Is Manuel going to solve every problem for the Bills?
Of course not. But Buffalo wouldn’t waste a very high draft pick if it didn’t think he would at least help the team.
It’s not going to be an easy season no matter what quarterback plays under center and, of course, there is a high risk involved whenever a rookie quarterback starts.
Marrone will judge each quarterback based on success in training camp. If Manuel can click with his offensive line and jel with some talented receivers, then he will be able to show the coaches that he doesn’t only provide the best bet for the future but maybe even the best bet for right now.
Winning is what matters and Buffalo desperately needs wins. The rookie needs to show that he has the ability to be victorious in 2013 and beyond.
If he does do that, then EJ Manuel should, and will, be named the starting quarterback for the Buffalo Bills.
Follow me on Twitter @realsovenbery for even more discussion on training camp battles!