The long anticipated quarterback competition between Kevin Kolb and EJ Manuel begins Sunday night. Head coach Doug Marrone agreed it was a dead heat after the spring between the two starting candidates. So naturally in his first comments at training camp Buffalo's head coach confirmed that the reps for the pair on offense will be divided evenly between the first and second units.
"We're going to split the reps and get looks at both Kevin and EJ with both groups to see how they perform with that," said Marrone.
Marrone said at this point detailed discussions as to how things will work in the preseason games have yet to take place, though he admits those performances will carry a lot of weight in the evaluations of each of the signal callers too.
Right now the priority for Marrone and his offensive staff is to make the competition one that creates a level playing field for each of them.
"Our goal as coaches is to make it fair for both players, not just at the quarterback position, but other positions of competition," he said.
That's fine by Kolb, who is now entering his third starting quarterback competition with his third different NFL club.
"The last few years I don't know anything different so the intensity has always been there for me," he said. "I've never gotten to come in and just say, 'Hey it's mine.' Or, 'It's not mine.'
"I guess it was that way the first couple of years when Donovan (McNabb) was there with the Eagles, but after that it's always been a competition. I've always had something to prove and there's no better way to go about it."
For EJ Manuel the competition is more about excitement than pressure, and he believes in the six weeks he's had to himself since the end of the minicamp he's done nothing but improve his game.
"I feel like I made a lot of progress as far as the playbook and things like that," Manuel said. "The best way to learn the playbook is continue to read it over and over and over so I definitely made sure I did that every day when I had time off. I'm looking forward to seeing how I do."
Manuel is undoubtedly the future at quarterback. The burning question is whether he's the present as well. Marrone was straightforward in explaining that he's going to pick the quarterback that will help the most in making the team successful this season.
"Really the future for us as coaches and as a team is now," said Marrone. "The way I look at it is what players can we put on the field to win now? That's how I look at it. Who gives us the best opportunity to win? The players know it and you have a responsibility to the players on this team that many only have one year on their contract or may not be here long. You have a responsibility to them, everyone else, our fans and the organization to really put the best players out there that give us the best chance to win.
"You can't succumb to speculation that down the road this person will be a better player here or there. I'm looking for who is the best player right now."
Despite the fact that Kolb has six years of NFL experience on Manuel the rookie quarterback is committed to playing his game without overdoing it.
"Just continue to show what I've always shown, the leadership skills… I think whatever coach Hackett wants me to show, I think he wants me to show I have an understanding of the offense," said Manuel. "If I can show that I think I'll be fine."
All Marrone is looking for is one of the players to rise above the other. His coaching experience has taught him that if you provide enough reps to each of the candidates the decision will usually be made for you.
"It really relies on the players to separate themselves," he said. "I can't think of an instance where I was a coach or with a group of coaches or scouts or GMs where we said, 'Okay we have these two players.' And we were divided on that. The repetitions will be split and it will be done fairly. I can promise you that."