on June 11, 2013 - 11:44 PM
, updated June 12, 2013 at 10:54 AM
Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone said Tuesday he thinks the starting quarterback battle between Kevin Kolb and EJ Manuel will become self-evident at some point in training camp this summer.
“When you go in there … and two people are competing, I think it’s going to be something that we’re all going to see, not just a decision that’s made,” Marrone said. “I believe that we’ll be able to see it at training camp. I think the players on the team are going to be able to see that separation, and that’s the most important thing.”
The two-man competition got underway on the first day of the Bills’ three-day minicamp, as veteran Kevin Kolb and rookie EJ Manuel shared the majority of snaps with the offense.
Kolb, the six-year veteran signed in free agency from Arizona, took the first snaps in team drills with the starting unit. He got 49 snaps overall, compared with 39 for Manuel and 11 for third quarterback Jeff Tuel, the undrafted rookie from Washington State.
Monday’s release of veteran Tarvaris Jackson allowed the coaches to get longer looks at both Kolb and Manuel, which Marrone said was precisely the reason for the roster move.
“When you look at it from a standpoint of reps … there’s just not enough reps to really do a good job evaluating,” Marrone said of a three-way competition. “I think it’ll be a lot clearer for all of us, or especially for myself as a coach, with the amount of reps that Kevin and EJ will get. … If you’re going around and you’re giving three players reps, it’s tough to keep track of that, honestly. And we keep track of everything.”
Neither the quarterbacks nor the offense exactly lit up the grass practice field behind the team’s fieldhouse.
The pass rushers got good pressure on the quarterbacks. Nobody connected on pretty deep balls. There were a lot of short, quick dump-off passes. The offense ran mostly in a no-huddle mode but did huddle up for one 12-play section.
Manuel probably looked a little smoother than he has in a few of the practices in previous weeks.
“With EJ we just want to make sure we’re taking it in a natural progression,” Marrone said. “He’s not seeing the same type of things that Kevin’s seeing out there right now. We’re just working ahead and building him up.”
Kolb threw an interception to safety Aaron Williams. He also hit a few more on-rhythm slants than Manuel. Manuel closed with a good reaction to a blitz and a 10-yard completion to Brad Smith, followed by a 15-yard well-thrown sideline pass to wideout Chris Hogan.
Both Kolb and Manuel thanked Jackson for being a helpful teammate, then acknowledged the benefit of more work.
“I’m excited about more reps with the ones and we’ll see where it goes from there,” Kolb said.
“I get a chance to make more plays, get more reps,” Manuel said. “Your body gets to stay warm, you don’t take three reps and you’re done. So it’s a great opportunity.”
“I’m still trying to learn, still trying to get a great feel for my teammates, still trying to earn the respect of the veteran guys as well as the rookies,” Manuel said. “We’re all just trying to get on the same page.”
Given the fact most of the players are new to each other and everyone is learning a new system, it’s going to take a lot more practice sessions for the Bills’ offense to become efficient.
Getting used to the different ways each receiver runs deep routes is just one small example of the kind of timing the quarterbacks must develop. Throwing deep to Stevie Johnson is a little different than throwing deep to T.J. Graham, Marquise Goodwin or Da’Rick Rogers (each of whom has shown the ability this spring to get open downfield.)
“We had maybe six or seven deep balls that were just right there,” Kolb said. “The one that sticks out in my mind was one to Stevie early. It was a post route. He came back to the sideline and I said, ‘Hey, it’s OK, man, I’ve never thrown a deep ball to you since I’ve been here.’ So that stuff we’ll work out. I’m not worried about it.”
Kolb was encouraged by the speed with which the offense operated.
“Our defense gives us a lot of different looks,” he said. “There’s a lot of communication that has to go on at the line. You can even see through practice, our tempo was picking up as practice went. That was good. There were times we didn’t have to say what was happening because we were getting a feel for it.”