Bills QB competition based on who can win now
PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) — Rookie first-round draft pick EJ Manuel has the raw potential. Veteran free-agent addition Kevin Kolb has six seasons of NFL experience.
None of that will factor into Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone’s approach in determining which quarterback will win the starting job over the next six weeks.
“What I look at is it’s really which players can we put on the field to win now,” Marrone said, after being asked if the Manuel has the edge because he’s regarded as the team’s future. “A lot of people talk about the future. And really the future for us as coaches and as a team is now.”
Without preconceptions, Marrone will base his decision on what happens on the field in a competition that resumed Sunday night, when the Bills opened training camp with their first practice in suburban Rochester.
Kolb got a majority of playing time with the starters, with Manuel spending most of his time with the second unit.
Manuel wowed the crowd by hitting T.J. Graham on a pair of deep passes up the right sideline. He should have had another long completion, but rookie second-round pick Robert Woods dropped the ball in the end zone.
Kolb was inconsistent hitting deep passes, but did complete a perfectly placed touch pass to tight end Scott Chandler just inside the right sideline.
Marrone plans to increase Manuel’s time with the starters, and expects to have both evenly split practices. Marrone also revealed for the first time on Sunday that he intends to pick his starter about 10 days before the Bills’ opener against the New England Patriots on Sept. 8.
By then, Marrone expects it will be apparent to him and the entire team which one has earned the job.
“You can’t succumb to speculation of down the road this person will be a better player,” said Marrone, the first-time head coach who replaced Chan Gailey in January. “I’m looking for who is the best player now.”
Manuel has been excited for the opportunity ever since the Bills selected him with the 16th pick, making the Florida State product the only quarterback chosen in the first round of the draft in April.
“I think it’s a huge opportunity,” Manuel said. “Obviously, I want to come out and make everybody happy, all the people in the front office.”
At 6-foot-4 and 237 pounds, Manuel has the size and showed off his arm-strength during spring practices. And yet, the Florida State product still has much to improve after Marrone noted that Manuel lacked “polish.”
Upon arriving at camp Friday, Manuel said he’s not taken a day off since the Bills last practice on June 13. He’s worked on his footwork and mechanics, while also poring over the playbook to become comfortable with the up-tempo style of offense Marrone is introducing.
“I think I made a lot of progress,” said Manuel, who went 25-6 as a college starter. “So I’m looking forward to seeing how I go out there and do.”
Manuel has already moved up the depth chart after the Bills cut veteran Tarvaris Jackson last month.
Center Eric Wood liked what he saw from Manuel during spring minicamps.
“He’s got some leadership skills, he’s got a great arm, athletic: A lot of things you look for in a quarterback,” Wood said. “Now comes time to make some plays when the pads are on.”
For Kolb, competing for a starting job has become a familiar offseason exercise in his latest attempt to kick-start a career hampered by injuries.
“I could probably just pull out a tape recorder from the last three years and hit play. It’s nothing new,” Kolb said. “It’s always been a competition. I’ve always had something to prove. And there’s no better way to go about it.”
Staying healthy has been a key issue for Kolb, who has 28 touchdowns, 25 interceptions and a 9-12 record as a starter in 34 games split between Philadelphia and Arizona.
Selected by the Eagles in the second round of the 2007 draft, Kolb was supposed to be Donovan McNabb’s successor. Kolb barely got the chance. He was injured in the 2009 opener and eventually lost the starting job to Michael Vick.
Kolb got a chance for a fresh start in 2011, when he was traded to the Cardinals and signed a five-year, $63 million contract. He went 5-6 as a starter in Arizona, with injuries ending both his seasons.
Kolb respects Marrone’s approach to the competition.
“Everywhere I’ve been, whenever the starter is named, most of the team feels the same way,” Kolb said. “So hopefully there’s a drastic separation, and we can move forward and there’s no question about who it should be. Of course, I’m here to compete, and hopefully that’s me.”
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