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EJ Manuel pulling away from Kevin Kolb in QB competition

EJ Manuel BillsThe Buffalo Bills entered training camp with E.J. Manuel and Kevin Kolb competing for the starting quarterback job. Kolb, who was signed by the team in the offseason, seemed like the leader to start Week 1 because of his experience. But through two preseason games, it’s looking more and more like Manuel will open the season as the team’s starter.

Kolb, who missed the first preseason game because of a knee injury, got the start against the Minnesota Vikings on Friday. He went 13-of-21 for 111 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception on a tipped ball. He scrambled one time for seven yards.

Manuel came in after Kolb and went 10-of-12 for 92 yards and a touchdown.

Both quarterbacks operated mostly out of the shotgun and threw short, quick routes. They each were faced with pressure from Minnesota’s four-man front, which frequently got in their face quickly. The Vikings’ defense led Kolb to look to release the ball quickly on many of his attempts.

Though neither quarterback was particularly impressive, Kolb has not given the Bills a reason not to go with the rookie. The Bills boldly selected Manuel with their No. 16 overall pick, making him the first quarterback taken in the draft. They were impressed by his build, abilities, and intangible qualities. Team GM Doug Whaley even admitted they would love to have Manuel run away with the job.

“Absolutely, it helps if he becomes the starter and becomes successful, there’s no doubt about it,” Whaley admitted to NFL.com during the week.

Through two preseason games, Manuel is now 26-of-33 for 199 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s also rushed four times for 29 yards. He’d have to get injured or have a disastrous third game preseason game to lose this competition.

Will Bills select Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib with 8th overall pick in draft?

Ryan-Nassib-SyracuseThe Buffalo Bills are trying to create some competition at quarterback heading into training camp, but they have little in the way of quality depth at the position. If camp started today, Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson would be battling for the starting job. Fortunately, the Bills still have an opportunity to address the position in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Buffalo currently holds the 8th overall pick in the draft, which begins on Thursday. There is a growing belief that the Bills will take a quarterback with that selection, and ESPN’s Todd McShay speculated in his most recent mock draft that former Syracuse signal-caller Ryan Nassib could be a logical choice.

Nassib, a three-year starter for the Orange, completed over 62% of his passes and threw for 3,749 yards and 26 touchdowns in his senior season last year. He is considered by most to be one of the top-five quarterbacks in the 2013 draft class, but there has been some disagreement about where players like West Virginia’s Geno Smith and USC’s Matt Barkley will be selected.

Kurt Warner seems to think taking Nassib at No. 8 would be a major stretch for Buffalo.

“Watching film of this guy — not overly impressive on film,” Warner told NFL AM on Tuesday morning, via Pro Football Talk. “If you’re drafting a quarterback in the first round, you’re drafting a franchise quarterback, a guy who you believe can win Super Bowls for you. Otherwise, why draft a guy that high? You need a guy that can do everything, and I didn’t see on film this guy having the ability to do everything. He didn’t wow me when I saw him on film.”

There is always a gamble any time a team selects a quarterback in the first round, but it should be noted that Nassib played for Bills coach Doug Marrone while at Syracuse. Buffalo could have a bias because of that, or Marrone may simply be confident Nassib is capable of becoming an NFL starter based on what he knows about him. Time will tell.

Bills coach Doug Marrone didn’t know backup quarterback Aaron Corp’s name

Doug-MarroneBuffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone is still getting acclimated with his new team. The Bills have yet to begin any organized offseason workouts, so Marrone probably hasn’t had a chance to speak with all of his players in person. In fact, he may not even know all of their names.

Marrone was recently discussing his team’s quarterback situation with SI.com’s Don Banks when the subject of depth came up. The Bills currently have Tarvaris Jackson penciled in as their starting quarterback with former Richmond quarterback Aaron Corp listed as the backup by default. According to Banks, Marrone referred to Corp as “Andy Corp.”

Give the man a break. It could have easily been a slip of the tongue. Or, as Around the League pointed out, it’s possible Marrone is simply unfamiliar with Corp like the rest of us. Corp was a highly-touted prospect out of high school but lost out to Matt Barkley for the starting position at USC. He was signed as an undrafted free agent last season but lasted just a few weeks on Buffalo’s roster.

“I always think to myself, ‘What do people mean when they say franchise (quarterback)?'” Marrone said. “You know? What’s the definition of that? We’re going to have somebody back there playing that position for us. I don’t know what category to put them in.”

It sounds obvious that Marrone isn’t thrilled with the current quarterback situation, and why should he be? It was clear the team had moved on from Ryan Fitzpatrick when those hackers recorded Buffalo GM Buddy Nix’s phone conversation, but is Jackson an upgrade? I think we all know the answer to that.

Manny Lawson signed with Buffalo Bills, was not aware of how bad they have been

Manny Lawson BillsManny Lawson did not exactly do his research before signing with the Buffalo Bills.

The former first-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers signed a four-year, $12 million deal with the Bills on Wednesday. He made it pretty clear at his press conference that his decision to sign really was about the money.

How do we know? He said he had no idea the Bills have gone 13 straight seasons without reaching the playoffs when a reporter brought that up.

“No sir, that’s a very interesting point that you pointed out. I did not know,” Lawson said at his press conference. “That’s new knowledge to me.”

Lawson doesn’t seem to be fazed by the team’s recent history.

“I guess it’s good to know. I’ve come here to change things.”

Usually you would figure a player would know something like that before signing with a team. However, Lawson mentioned that being able to play with former college teammate Mario Williams and for defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was appealing, so he wasn’t completely ignorant about the team.

If this teaches us anything, it’s that sometimes all a player wants is the security of a long-term deal, regardless of which team is providing it.

Helmet smack to BuzzFeed

Stevie Johnson wants Ryan Fitzpatrick calling plays over Chan Gailey

The Buffalo Bills fell to the Indianapolis Colts 20-13 on Sunday for their fourth loss in five games, and wide receiver Stevie Johnson wants some changes.

Johnson said after the game that he would like to see quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick begin calling more plays instead of head coach Chan Gailey.

“How I see it, I think we need to let our quarterback call these plays,” Johnson said, per The Buffalo News. “He’s out there on the field. He sees the adjustments that need to be done. I think we just need to let him make adjustments on the go. I think that’s the way we can move the ball better.

“He did it a little bit in the game, and we moved the ball. … He was hitting C.J. [Spiller], getting his run plays, doing the pass plays, and I just think we should do it more often.”

The Buffalo News points out that a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Fitzpatrick to Johnson ended a seven-quarter touchdown drought. Johnson credited Fitzpatrick for that touchdown drive.

“It was all Fitz,” Johnson said. “Fitz made the adjustments, the audibles, and I think that led to our success, going down the field, making those throws. So I just think we should do a little bit more of that.”

Fitzpatrick went 17-of-33 for 180 yards, a touchdown, and an interception in the loss. Johnson had six catches for a season high 106 yards, including a career-long 63-yard gain.

Buffalo entered the game 17th in the league with 23 points per game. The running game entered Week 12 eighth in the NFL with 140.8 yards per game, but the passing game has dropped off to 23rd. Maybe Gailey should listen to Johnson and consider allowing Fitzpatrick more freedom on the field. At 4-7, it’s not like they have a whole lot more to lose, and if they don’t improve, it won’t be too long before Gailey is fired.

Between these comments and what Johnson said about Gailey two weeks ago, it’s obvious he’s dissatisfied.

Helmet smack to Around the League
Photo credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Chan Gailey Uses the Word ‘Pitiful’ to Describe the Bills

Through the first five weeks of the NFL season, we found ourselves wondering if it would really be possible for teams like the Bills, Lions, and 49ers to all make the playoffs. Since then San Francisco has been cruising to a No. 1 seed, the Lions have stumbled but still have a chance, and the Bills have taken the all-important role of 2011’s pretender.

Coming out of the gate, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson surprised the league with their play-making ability.  The Bills scored 34 or more points in each of their first three games, and while their defense looked like it could be an issue, their offense looked like one of the best in the NFL.  On Sunday, Buffalo dropped its third straight game by way of a 35-8 shellacking in Miami.  They have been outscored 106-26 in the three losses.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been through that before, ever,” head coach Chan Gailey said according to Pro Football Talk. “When you’re that bad, you’re having a pitiful day.”

Make that two straight pitiful weeks, as the Cowboys beat the Bills 44-7 a week ago.  It’s safe to assume Gailey’s dreams of an undefeated season and a Super Bowl ring have been shattered.

“We’re baffled as to what has happened,” Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “For the past three weeks, it has not been fun to play, and I’m sure it has not been fun to watch.”

We’re not baffled.  Simply put, the Bills are no longer surprising teams.  When you know that your opponent has a dangerous offense it becomes easier to prepare for.  Buffalo’s defense has not been good all year and now teams are able to exploit it right out of the gate, leaving their offense to play catch-up for three quarters.  Fitzpartrick and company are effective, but the Bills’ defense has asked them to do too much all season long.

Bills Players Rave About Buffalo Fans Rocking Ralph Wilson Stadium

The Bills snapped a 15-game losing streak to the Patriots Sunday with a 34-31 win at home. Simply overcoming a 21-0 deficit makes the win special, but finally beating the Patriots made it spectacular. Buffalo had been thoroughly dominated by the Pats for years. New England had won 20 of their last 21 meetings with the Bills, so the victory had to feel like winning the Super Bowl for many fans.

Chris Kelsay, who is the only Bills player on the roster who was with the team the last time they had beaten the Patriots (in 2003), called it the biggest win of his career. Running back Fred Jackson ran around the field waving a Bills flag after the win, and the goal posts had to be lowered to keep fans from pulling them down. It was like a college atmosphere in Buffalo.

After the win, Bills players raved on Twitter about the amazing energy from the fans.

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