Assuming that Jeff Tuel is the starting quarterback of the Buffalo Bills for week one of the regular season, he will surprise people. The undrafted, rookie free agent out of Washington State has mostly flown under the radar this preseason, but has flashed some exciting potential when asked to play. Although predicting a win for Tuel against the New England Patriots might be going too far, Tuel is poised to put up impressive numbers in his NFL debut, and a surprise upset over the reigning AFC East Champions is not out of the question.
If for no other reason, Bills fans can get excited about the inherent vulnerability of the Patriots this season. Following the offseason injury concerns of Rob Gronkowski, the offseason murder-y concerns of Aaron Hernandez, and the departure of Wes Welker, many are left wondering who, exactly, Tom Brady is supposed to throw the ball to this year. With all that uncertainty on offense, the Bills re-tooled defense should be able to take advantage, and pressure Tom Brady with the fast, aggressive style of play they have already displayed this preseason. Making Brady see ghosts in the pocket is the only proven way to shut down the Pats, and the Bills possess the ideal scheme and personnel to do just that.
Solid defense leads to easy offense, and that’s especially true when it comes to up-tempo teams like the new-look Bills. If the Bills’ defense manages to force sloppy play and quick turnovers out of the weakened Patriots’ offense, then the unit that will suffer most is the Pats’ D. The Bills’ no-huddle offense is designed to wear down opposing defenses, a process that will only happen more rapidly the longer said defense is on the field. The Bills’ new offense, while relatively inexperienced, is stocked with young, blazing fast athletes, and Tuel will be in a great position to do what he does best, throw the deep ball.
In Saturday’s 30-7 loss to the Washington Redskins, the Bills’ offense looked woeful by the time Tuel entered the game. Considering the circumstances, that isn’t all bad. For one thing, the offensive play calling was extremely conservative at that point, in an effort to protect the Bills’ only remaining quarterback. Tuel almost exclusively threw short, dump off passes, and while he looked poised and accurate on those passes, the entire offense was clearly on a leash, and not at all indicative of what they will look like during the regular season.
In the few opportunities Tuel has had to perform this preseason, he has stepped up and made plays. His 212-yard, two touchdown second half against the Indianapolis Colts comes to mind. Tuel now has the opportunity to play with the Bills’ starters, including the dynamic running back duo of Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller. Tuel is surrounded by all the pieces he needs to succeed, and the only question now is whether or not he will rise to the occasion. I believe he will.
It’s Tuel Time.