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Bills offense turns to Jeff Tuel

Posted Aug 25, 2013

The Buffalo offense turns to Jeff Tuel as its only QB well-versed in the offensive system.

Bills head coach Doug Marrone was commenting just a day before the team’s third preseason game that Jeff Tuel has seen more snaps in training camp and the preseason than any other third quarterback in the history of the league. Marrone is probably glad that’s the case now as Tuel is the only healthy quarterback well versed in Buffalo’s offensive system.

The Bills lost EJ Manuel to a knee injury in their second preseason game that required surgery. Manuel has been declared out for the remainder of the preseason with an outside chance to be ready for the season opener.

On Saturday afternoon Buffalo lost Kevin Kolb to what is expected to be diagnosed as a concussion after he was suffering from concussion-like symptoms following a blow to the back of his head on a scramble in the first quarter of the Bills loss to the Redskins.

“It is a concern,” said Marrone of moving forward with his third quarterback as his number one signal caller. “I’m not going to lie and stand here and say everything is fine and dandy. The thing I look at is EJ (Manuel) was playing very well for us and doing a heck of a job. We need to get him back as soon as we can obviously. But also Kevin has missed some things and we really needed to get him back in there so he could get some reps.

“Jeff (Tuel) has gotten most of the reps and you saw there are some things that we’ve got to do a better job getting him prepared for and he has to do a better job executing on the field. It is a concern and we knew that going in. I made that decision that we were going in with three quarterbacks knowing we had to get them all ready. And this is the situation that we’re in and we have to deal with.”

Even though the Bills are going to add at least one quarterback to the mix and possibly transition Brad Smith back to quarterback from receiver, Tuel is the most qualified candidate to lead the offense at this point knowing how much time he’s had on the field.

“I’m honestly just preparing the same way I have since the get-go,” said Tuel. “This is exactly why because you never know what’s going to happen when it does happen. So you’ve got to be ready at all times. I prepared like I was the number one guy at the beginning of camp and everything. So I’m just going to go with the same approach and see where it takes me.”

“He has (had time on the field) and we’ve liked him from the beginning and I’ve said that off the bat,” said Marrone. “But we never would’ve thought we’d give just the one guy the majority of the reps because of the injuries.”

Tuel looked very poised in the team’s preseason opener when he completed 19-23 passes for 212 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Overall this preseason he’s 31-43 passing for 299 yards (72.1% completion) and a pair of touchdowns with no interceptions for a passer rating of 106.6.

“I’ve been really trying to earn the trust of my fellow teammates and coaches through camp and OTAs and everything,” said Tuel. “So when and if this happens they would rally behind me and trust me with the offense and stuff. I’ve got a great group of guys in there and the offensive line they really took care of me and helped me out with things. It’s just a great group of guys.”

Buffalo’s offensive unit sounded ready to rally around the undrafted rookie quarterback after it was clear he would be taking charge of the huddle for the immediate future.

“We’ve got to work with him,” said Fred Jackson. “Figure out what it is that he likes and do whatever we can to make his job easier. We’re not at full strength right now, but we expect big things from Jeff. He’s handled this offense and come in and made plays when he’s had the opportunity.”

“Good kid.  Smart player.  Great arm,” said Eric Wood. “At this point, we’ve got to protect him. It looks like we’re going to be rolling with him for the next week or so. We have a lot of confidence in him. We expect him to step in and for us not to miss a beat.”

“He does a very good job,” said T.J. Graham. “For a rookie, he commands the huddle. We have a lot of respect for him. As a quarterback, you’ve got to come in and make plays, and we trust him to do that.” 

As appreciative as Tuel might be for the help he’s received from his teammates on the field, he’s most thankful for the healthy amount of playing time he’s received in training camp and the preseason hoping it translates into more consistent play.

“It’s huge,” he said. “It’s been a tremendous opportunity for me just to get those reps. Every rep you learn something and get better. So just to be able to have those reps earlier in the preseason has been huge for me. It’s really going to help me going into this week and hopefully into the season.”