It became pretty apparent at the end of the 2012 season that the Bills were going to move in a different direction at quarterback. It was going to be the first change at the position in three seasons as Ryan Fitzpatrick missed just three starts between 2010 and 2012. But no one on the offensive side of the ball could've envisioned the turnstile nature of Buffalo's quarterback position through just six games this season.
All told Buffalo has had nine different quarterbacks throw to receiving targets on their roster in the practice setting. A total of five have thrown passes in a preseason or regular season game.
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"We went to camp with three (quarterbacks)," said head coach Doug Marrone. "Now if someone told me we were going to have these injuries I would've brought four, but that was difficult to know."
While most of the focus has been on getting the new quarterbacks in the lineup up to speed with the rest of the offense, little attention has been paid to the other 10 men on offense who have had to adjust to the different signal callers.
Last week Buffalo's offense had good execution for the most part in an overtime loss to the Bengals. In fact they committed just four penalties, a season low. That was an accomplishment knowing starting QB Thad Lewis had all of three full practices with the first unit offense during the week and a situational session the day before the game.
"It's something that we definitely have to adjust to," said Fred Jackson. "Different guys have different ways of doing things. Balls come out different. Calls are different at the line of scrimmage and those are things we have to be able to adjust to. We have to focus on what we have to do and get the job done."
Coming out of last Sunday's game Lewis suffered a foot sprain and was wearing an immobilizer boot. Again it was thought that there would be a third change at quarterback in three weeks. Fortunately Lewis got through the week with no setbacks and is listed as probable.
To their credit the players have taken the recent quarterback changes in stride, knowing there's little that can be done to change the state of their quarterback position with EJ Manuel out at least another month.
"It's the hand that we were dealt with the situation with injuries," said Stevie Johnson. "It's hard, but we've got to find a way to get through it. If not then we may embarrass a lot of our fans and ourselves. That's not what we want to do, so we're going to do what we can to get everybody on the same page."
Reserve QB Jeff Tuel, who is the only quarterback who has seen all the changes at his position without getting injured, is impressed with how the other players on offense have handled things.
"They've done a great job," said Tuel. "I actually asked (Eric) Wood about whether it was tough for him with the different quarterbacks and stuff like with the cadence. We don't really say any different cadences. It's not like EJ has his own separate cadence and then Thad and me. We all run the same stuff. He said it's really been pretty easy for them. The biggest thing is just the relationship and the timing between the quarterback and the receivers. That's something we need to continue to improve no matter who the quarterback is."
Things figure to improve with each passing week that Lewis is in the lineup. He makes his second consecutive start Sunday.
Buffalo's most recent addition at quarterback is Matt Flynn, who knows change all too well himself. After signing as a free agent with Seattle in 2012, the Bills will be his third team in less than a calendar year.
"It's one of those things where I'm happy I'm getting a fresh start," said Flynn. "I'm happy that I'm getting this opportunity with the Bills and I'm excited about it. Hopefully this works out."
While his teammates are no doubt happy a veteran quarterback has been added to the roster they'd likely prefer to maintain as much continuity at the position on game days as possible for now. Buffalo's offense has endured a lot of change at the most important position in a very short period of time.
At the same time the men on offense know anyone could be knocked out of a game at any time.
"It's a physical game and guys are going to get dinged up and hurt throughout the season," said Jackson. "It's just next man up whoever it may be. We bring a guy in and he's got to hit the ground running and however it is we've got to rally behind him and keep this thing rolling."