After leaving the Buffalo Bills’ Week 5 game against the Cleveland Browns early, rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel has been diagnosed with a sprained LCL and is expected to miss “a few weeks” before he’s ready to see the field. Although unfortunate, Manuel’s injury opens a door for undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel.
Tuel, a Washington State product who failed to hear his name called this past April, earned a roster spot with the Bills following an outstanding preseason.
Throughout the preseason, Tuel completed 31 of his 43 attempts (72.1 percent) for 300 yards and two touchdowns for a 106.7 passer rating. His best performance came in his NFL debut, when he picked apart the Indianapolis Colts secondary to the tune of 212 yards and two touchdowns with an 82.6 completion percentage. According to Pro Football Focus, he earned a 4.5 overall rating and was one of the top quarterbacks of the preseason.
Tuel’s regular season debut, however, wasn’t as pretty.
Stepping in for the injured Manuel, Tuel completed only eight of his 20 passes (40 percent) for 80 yards and one interception – a pick-six. He also took two sacks and appeared overwhelmed, earning himself a -4.9 rating on the night.
Despite Tuel’s ugly showing against the Browns, the Bills shouldn’t give up on the undrafted rookie. Tuel showed during the preseason – albeit against subpar opposition – that he can make NFL throws and smart decisions with the football. He displayed a strong arm, capable pocket awareness and the leadership that the Bills need at quarterback with Manuel temporarily out of the picture.
The presence of a strong Buffalo running game led by C.J. Spiller should also help Tuel moving forward, assuming he stays the starter.
With Tuel being the only quarterback on the roster, the Bills will surely add a veteran to the mix to at least add some depth. Seeing as Buffalo almost started Tuel in Week 1, they should stick with the rookie for now until he forces them to bench him or Manuel returns.
This is a golden opportunity for Tuel to prove his worth as a serviceable NFL quarterback. We’ll see if he can capitalize.