For the first time in a long time, the Buffalo Bills have an unquestioned starting quarterback. Tyrod Taylor made sure of that by how efficiently he performed during the 2015 season, but the trouble is, what happens if he gets hurt?
As of now, the contingency plan is former first-round pick EJ Manuel -- a man that I wrote about in the '9 Bills questions heading into camp' column posted earlier in the day on Wednesday. Last year, the Bills elected to trade Matt Cassel and go with just Manuel as their backup quarterback, and when they needed him to step in for Taylor, they lost both times.
Manuel faced an undefeated Cincinnati Bengals team the first week which was an uphill climb in itself. The Bengals were playing at the highest level they would be all season, but Manuel didn't try and force the issue. His final statistics were respectable from the eye test (28-of-42, 263 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception) but if you dig deeper, Manuel made things too predictable.
Manuel was able to complete some passes down the field late in the game when the Bengals softened up their coverage to prevent big plays, but, in the first three quarters when the game was still close, the numbers weren't pretty.
Manuel completed 18-of-26 passes for just 152 yards, and of those 26 passes, Manuel attempted to throw it down the field 10 yards or more only six times. He completed only two of those, and one of them needed a miraculous shoestring catch from Charles Clay just to be completed.
One week later, there was the implosion in London by Manuel against a Jacksonville Jaguars team the Bills should have beaten. That point has been discussed time and time again, so we'll move from there to 2016.
Manuel is once again the main backup, and although the Bills drafted Cardale Jones in the fourth round to develop him, he is nowhere near ready to be the backup to Taylor at this point.
So, with the news of the Los Angeles Rams releasing former starter Nick Foles, the next question is obvious: should the Bills see what it takes to sign him?
Yes, yes they should.
By no means am I a proponent of Nick Foles. In fact, I remained unimpressed with Foles even immediately after his unbelievable run with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. To me, he was the byproduct of Chip Kelly's system going unchecked in the head coach's first year in the NFL.
When he went to the Rams and played in less of a defined offense, he struggled with accuracy and turnovers. So, you're probably wondering, why would the Bills want any of that?
Well, first and foremost, he wouldn't be depended on to start by the Bills. Secondly, he thrived in a controlled offensive system, and that's just what offensive coordinator Greg Roman brings to the table.
Foles wouldn't just be handed the backup job, and Manuel has over a year of experience with the playbook on his would-be competition, but the Bills need to make sure they have the best possible backup option heading into 2016.
As good as Taylor was last year, he likes to get out in the open field to make plays when things break down and puts himself at risk for injuries to be sustained. Taylor missed two games in 2015 for that reason, so the backup plan must be fortified.
What's the incentive for Foles? He'd be going to a team where he would have a legitimate chance to win the backup job, and play for an offensive coordinator that has notably gotten the most out of the quarterbacks he's worked with. Plus, the Taylor injury factor can't be ignored, either.
Now, that might be a lesser offer than say if the New York Jets or the Denver Broncos were to come calling, where he could even push to start if the current quarterbacks fall out of favor with their coaching staffs. However, with the way he's played over the last two years, teams likely won't be eager to add him to the starting mix.
On the downside, you'd be taking away reps from Cardale Jones in training camp in what they've billed to be a development year for the rookie. But in the grand scheme of things, with all the importance placed on this season, sacrificing a few reps through one month of the year wouldn't be ideal, but it's also a price worth paying in the event of an injury.
In a dried up quarterback market, at least the Bills would be making sure that they have their best possible option to backup Taylor. Even if they sign Foles and Manuel wins the job, at least they know that they've done everything they could.
It's the most important position in the game, and this move would treat it as such.
So, should they try to sign Foles? I believe they should.
With how much they've talked up EJ Manuel in the offseason, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if they just stood pat with what they have. And if that's the case, they'll have to hope that decision doesn't come back to haunt them during the regular season.
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