Here's the Bills news of note for Dec. 29th.
1 - QB shuffle
Anthony Lynn confirmed on Wednesday that E.J. Manuel would take over the reins as Buffalo's starting quarterback for the team's final game of the season.
While there may be several reasons for the change at the position, Manuel's teammates are ready to help the former first round pick with possibly his final chance in a Bills uniform.
"He looks sharp," Marquise Goodwin said. "Obviously there are things we can all work on to help each other during the game and during crunch time. We just have to keep working this week in practice."
"It's a business decision, and I understand why it happened," Robert Woods said. "As his teammates, we just need to go out there and try to do our best to help E.J. and help the team get the win. Tyrod went down and EJ's the next man up. We're trying to have that mindset for it and still win the game with EJ.
Woods caught Manuel's career first touchdown pass against the Patriots in 2013. It was also Woods' first touchdown in the NFL.
In addition to Manuel being named the starter, it was Cardale Jones—not Tyrod Taylor— taking the second-team reps during the open portion of practice. Jones hasn't been active all season, and Lynn didn't commit to that changing for this week, but did say that the team wants to evaluate everything at that position.
"Coaches did a great job of getting me a couple of reps," Jones said. "Throwing one-on-ones and throwing routes where the receiver is and just being in the huddle, taking control. I think I've got a good feel for it so far but only a game will tell."
2 - Moving forward with LynnNearly everyone in the locker room on Wednesday lamented the fact that they weren't able to do enough to save Rex Ryan's job, but the team also sounded optimistic about Lynn being in control.
Lynn's ascension from running backs coach to head coach in just 15 weeks has surprised many—but not those that he has coached all season.
"He knows the-ins-and-the-outs," Richie Incognito said. "He's a super detail-oriented guy. He has high expectations of people, and like he just told us out there on the field, he wants us to go out and have fun and he wants us to grind Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday mentally, and then just let it all loose and just have fun on Sunday."
Most of the players learned of the news through the media on Tuesday, but spent Wednesday communicating with their new head coach. Lynn has certainly made his impact known around the building this season on both sides of the ball.
"I think he's going to do a great job," linebacker Brandon Spikes said. "He's a leader, a natural-born leader. Guys always follow him. You saw what happened when he got the offensive coordinator job, things instantly changed. The whole demeanor of the team changed. I'm anxious to see what he can do."
"He lets his presence be known," safety Corey White said. "He's a player's coach overall, but he is going to be fair and honest and that's all you can ask for in a coach—honesty."
Lynn has been a coach in the NFL since 2000, and spent the last eight years of his coaching career alongside Ryan.
3 - Closing it outWith the Bills having an NFL-high 23 free agents heading into the 2017 season, reality is setting in for some players that this could be their last game in a Buffalo uniform.
Some of the big names on that list includes Robert Woods, Lorenzo Alexander, Zach Brown and Stephon Gilmore.
But the Bills also have quite a few role players on that list that have made significant contributions this season like Brandon Tate, Corey White and Jerome Felton.
"We just want to finish this season out with a win," White said. "We need to come together one last time, and it would feel a lot better going 8-8 heading into the offseason."
"We don't know if this will be the last time we'll be together or not," Goodwin said. "All we can hope for is the win this week and focus on the other stuff when it comes."
With so many players headed to free agency in a couple of months, Sunday may also provide a final platform to audition for the Bills and teams around the league.
"This is a time to show your value, to show what you bring to the table," Spikes said. "I think everyone should experience what it's like to be recruited and have other places want you, but this is a great place, too. I'm thankful for the opportunity they've given me here."
Those 23 players are almost 10 more than the average number of free agents for the other 31 NFL teams (14).