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Head coach Doug Marrone was asked if he would consider Tuel now a true competitor for the starting quarterback job.
"I think at first what happens, it was interesting, when you draft, what we’ve seen publicly is a lot of the emphasis on obviously EJ and Kevin," said Marrone. "I think if you go back and you look in the beginning, I said ‘Hey I really like this kid we took from Washington State who’s really done a good job.’
"I think that we’ve seen that he’s gone in there and he’s really done a nice job. At the end of the day, do I really want to say he’s in competition with that? Obviously I do because I want all of our players, not just Jeff, to understand that no matter where they may stand on the depth chart, they’re fighting for the position to be a starter. I don’t want our players to think ‘Hey I’m fighting for this position, he’s the starter, maybe I could be number two or three.’
"My mind says once the player has limited himself to that he’s not going to develop as far as he can. So to answer your question now, yes I want him to compete to be the starting quarterback, that’s what is going to make him the best and then we’ll evaluate if it’s good enough for us to win with and where he ranks among that position, not just at the quarterback position, but also the roster."
Tuel is taking the same approach.
"If you go into anything thinking you have no shot, you’re dooming yourself from the beginning," said Tuel. "I just take it one rep at a time, and make the best plays I can: the best reads, the best throws, all that. Just continue to get better and see where it takes me."
For the second time this preseason Tuel is the beneficiary of extra reps due to injury. The Washington State product got a week’s worth of reps with the second team offense when Kolb was injured and absent due to a death in his family.
“Very beneficial. You hate to see a guy go down, but if you’re doing anything in life, the more you do it, the better you’re going to get at it,” said Tuel. “It’s just a fact. I was really blessed with the opportunity to run with the twos and get those extra snaps in. I think it helped my game tremendously.”
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Nathaniel Hackett has been on Tuel to slow his feet down, stay calm in the pocket and methodically going through his progressions.
“He’s just really challenging me to know the offense as well as he does,” said Tuel of Hackett. “I know guys like EJ (Manuel) and Kevin (Kolb) have said that Coach Hackett has really challenged us to know it as well as him, and when he calls a play, to see what he’s thinking on the field. That’s the biggest thing I need to improve on.”
Through two preseason games Tuel is 21-26 passing for 236 yards and two touchdowns with a passer rating of 130.1. He’s also averaging the highest yards per attempt among the three quarterbacks with a lofty mark of 9.1.
With another full week of second team reps this week and the strong likelihood of at least a quarter’s worth of action Saturday at Washington, Tuel, by the end of the preseason, may have seen more work than any other third quarterback in the league.
“From the day I got here, I’m going to prepare like I’m the No. 1, whether I’m the three, two or number one guy,” he said. “I think that’s the best way to approach the game. If the time comes and the opportunity presents itself, I’m going to be prepared.”