Believe it or not, the worst thing about being a Buffalo Bills fan isn’t just that they suck. The worst part is the gut-wrenching, unexpected and surprising way that they slowly break your spirit.
Take Friday night, for instance. EJ Manuel had just thoroughly out-played Kevin Kolb against the Minnesota Vikings, effectively putting an end to the Bills’ quarterback competition. It was an exciting performance to watch, as EJ orchestrated a close to perfect touchdown drive to start the second half. For the second straight preseason game, the Bills’ new defense looked aggressive and highly effective, and it wasn’t hard to envision the Bills growing into a dangerous, winning club with their current personnel. Then on Saturday morning, the universe re-aligned itself and Bills fans went back to being depressed.
EJ Manuel was experiencing swelling in his left knee and would require a ‘minor procedure’ that would keep him out for the remainder of the preseason. As disheartening as this news originally was, the fallout from EJ’s injury may not be so bad. For one thing, it sounds as though there’s a good chance Manuel will be good to go for the start of the regular season. Perhaps more importantly, the injury will give a certain dark horse free agent quarterback the chance to shine.
Although the quarterback battle between Kolb and Manuel has been highly publicized, the best preseason passing performance so far came from neither one of them. In the Bills first game against the Indianapolis Colts, undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel threw for 212 yards and two touchdowns on 19-of-23 passing in just one half of play.
A single sensational performance against the Colts’ second-string defense obviously isn’t enough to name Tuel the new starter, although it is certainly enough to warrant more reps. Jeff Tuel has shown that he can play, and now he deserves the opportunity to demonstrate that he can do so consistently.
Although EJ Manuel’s knee injury is an undeniable gut punch to a team that has already suffered their fair share, it may have laid the groundwork for yet another underdog story in the NFL. Jeff Tuel has been a flash of brilliance. Now it’s time for him to prove it was more than just a fluke.