E.J .Manuel will get the start under center for the Bills this afternoon as starter Tyrod Taylor nurses a sprained MCL. Despite Taylor’s encouraging start to the season–through four games, he has completed over 70% of his passes for 1,097 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions, and he has added 31 carries for 187 yards and two scores–Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Kevin Patra) reports that the quarterback competition in Buffalo may be re-opened.
In training camp and the preseason, of course, Manuel, the Bills’ former first-round draft pick, lost the starting job to Taylor, who had served as Joe Flacco‘s understudy for four years in Baltimore. Both players performed well, but Taylor was just a bit better, and his preseason success has largely carried over to the regular season. Nonetheless, Rapoport says that Manuel still has several key supporters within the organization, including (potentially) GM Doug Whaley, who drafted the Florida State product. The well-publicized remarks recently made by top wideout Sammy Watkins suggest that Manuel also enjoys at least some locker room support.
As such, Rapoport believes Manuel has a chance to rekindle the quarterback battle with a strong performance today. And, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Manuel’s audition could last even longer, as Taylor’s injury could sideline him for next week’s game as well. But can Manuel actually deliver a strong performance? Manuel has started fourteen games in his career, compiling a 6-8 record, a 58.6% completion rate, and a 78.5 quarterback rating, throwing 16 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. He did develop a rapport with Watkins last season, who has not yet gotten on the same page with Taylor, and as someone who does not even have a full season’s worth of starts under his belt, it is not hard to believe that Manuel’s preseason performance this year could be a sign that he has begun to realize his potential.
Rapoport concedes, though, that it would a surprise if Manuel actually did unseat Taylor at this point in the season. But the door is slightly ajar, and if Manuel thrives this week (and potentially next), the Bills’ seemingly settled quarterback situation could get a lot more interesting.