Top Buffalo Bills Training Camp Battles Pt.1: Will EJ Manuel, Tyrod Taylor or Matt Cassel Win QB Job?

With the 2015 NFL Draft over, we have a better vision of what the Buffalo Bills are looking to do on both offense and defense with Head Coach Rex Ryan brining an aggressive and exotic defensive scheme to complement new Offensive Coordinator, Greg Roman’s multiple and new-age offense that is a run-first, “beat ‘em down” brand of football.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be breaking down the biggest training camp battles, position-by-position. This first installment highlights the QBs.

Quarterback

The quarterback position is the most glaring question mark on the Buffalo Bills roster. NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks and Daniel Jeremiah listed the Bills as having the 2nd-best roster in the National Football League, excluding quarterbacks. With the Bills heading to camp with a legitimate open competition at QB between veteran journey-man Matt Cassell, former 1st-round pick EJ Manuel and a relatively unknown, yet exciting dual-threat passer in Tyrod Taylor, things will be interesting this summer at St. John Fisher College to say the least.

EJ Manuel

Given the amount of resources the Bills have provided EJ Manuel, it’s obvious that the franchise wants him to win the starting job. Athletically, Manuel possesses all the traits you look for in today’s modern QB—he’s big, standing 6’5” 240 pounds, has great speed and athleticism and possesses a big arm that’s capable of making all the throws asked of an NFL passer.

While these physical tools are coveted by every team in the league, Manuel’s mental errors have been inexcusable. In his first two years, he hasn’t shown the ability—or willingness—to keep plays alive with his feet. Instead, when his primary read wasn’t open, he’d check down to his running back or hold the ball too long, as seen in the following clip.

Here’s an example of his poor mechanics and inconstant touch on his deep ball.

Now, Manuel has most definitely shown flashes throughout his limited game reps that stemmed from multiple knee injuries in 2013 and his benching in 2014.

Pocket mobility while keeping eyes downfield.

Ability to deliver the deep ball under pressure.

Manuel showed the ability to read zone coverage and connect with his crossing target on numerous occasions. In week two of the 2014 season, Manuel and Sammy Watkins connected for a huge gain on a deep crosser off play-action against a two-deep look from the Dolphins.

Matt Cassel

When Kyle Orton surprisingly retired following the 2014 season, the Bills traded for Matt Cassel, veteran with a similar skill-set and ability level of Orton. While he’s only had 1-2 seasons of truly respectable play, Cassel knows what it takes to be a pro quarterback in the NFL.—from weekly preparation, film study and how to carry yourself as a leader. With two youngsters in Manuel and Tyrod Taylor in the quarterback room, Cassel will be a valuable asset. Cassel’s best and most efficient seasons came when he had a strong running game. His Kansas City team featured Jamaal Charles and had Adrian Peterson and now-Bills teammate, Jerome Felton lined up behind him during his time in Minnesota. Cassel’s experience and ability to “manage” a game could give him a notch up over Manuel and Taylor, even though he doesn’t share the same psychical abilities.

Tyrod Taylor

Tyrod Taylor was an electric play-maker during his collegiate career at Virginia Tech, throwing for 7,017 yards with 44 touchdowns to 20 interceptions, adding another 2,196 yards and 23 touchdowns on the ground.

Rex Ryan has had nothing but praise for Taylor, who spent the last four seasons backing up Joe Flacco with the Baltimore Ravens.

“He is an unknown, never played a whole lot in Baltimore. I think the ability is hard to ignore, some of the things that he has,” Ryan said of Taylor, according to the Democrat and Chronicle. “I think they all have something to prove. How they’re going to be in this system, we’re going to find out. Some quarterbacks flourish in certain systems and I believe all three guys will have a chance to be successful. I hope that’s the case. And hopefully that decision is going to be tough, on a good note, not that this guy wins it by default.”

Taylor has a big arm and the mobility and pocket awareness that allows him to keep plays alive, as shown in the following clips in his fourth-quarter touchdown drive during Baltimore’s preseason.

Here’s Ray Lewis with the play-by-play analysis of the game winning touchdown pass.

After the touchdown, here’s what the future Hall of Famer had to say about Taylor’s talent.

And before we sign off, here’s Tyrod breaking Kansas City Chiefs’ All-Pro edge rusher, Justin Houston’s ankles.

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