Two weeks before the season opener, the Buffalo Bills have a problem at quarterback.
Really, they may have a few problems.
But this particular issue pertains to their backups. None has emerged as reliable.
Given starter EJ Manuel’s recent history with knee injuries, this is a lingering worry for Bills coach Doug Marrone.
“I’m not going to sit here and say I’m satisfied with the backup quarterback,” Marrone said. “I’m not.”
In their four preseason games, three quarterbacks have taken the second-team snaps. In Saturday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dennis Dixon got the opportunity but was pulled after one possession because he fumbled.
“I wanted to bring Dennis in because I hadn’t seen him in a game,” Marrone said. “I wanted him actually to play longer than that. Then I got a little concerned about the ball security.”
Jeff Tuel finished the game. Tuel has gotten a majority of the second-team reps lately. Thad Lewis, who started five games last season, didn’t play Saturday.
Marrone claimed Tuel has been the team’s best backup quarterback. But that apparently isn’t satisfactory for Marrone.
Marrone and General Manager Doug Whaley could be on the lookout for help.
“Our conversations are always, ‘Hey, if we can better our football team, whatever we have to do, we will,’” Marrone said. “We wouldn’t be doing right to ourselves, the team, the fans, if we didn’t.
“If we felt we can upgrade ourselves by going outside and not do that, just because maybe we’re too comfortable, that’s not fair to anybody.”
Dixon took six snaps and threw one pass, incomplete. He dropped the ball three times, although he was ruled down by contact on two of those. Dixon recovered his fumble on his last play, a fourth-and-1 run.
Dixon, a Pittsburgh Steelers fifth-round pick in 2008, said he never has gotten second-team reps before in his career.
“The opportunity was a little short,” Dixon said, “but at the end of the day I’ll take it with a grain of salt and keep grinding.”
Tuel completed eight of his 14 passes for 90 yards. He was sacked once.
“We were shooting ourselves in the foot,” Tuel said. “A whole lot of that, honestly.”
Defensive tackle Alan Branch’s turbulent summer took yet another sudden dip.
Bills coach Doug Marrone revealed Branch didn’t play Saturday because he had been arrested.
Marrone said he couldn’t provide any details. The state police in Clarence confirmed the arrest. A Bills source said the arrest was for drunken driving. Another source added that the arrest occurred around 2:30 a.m. Saturday.
“It was reported to me that he was arrested,” Marrone said in his postgame news conference. “I’m going to meet with him tomorrow. I found out somewhere around noontime, midday. I just had too much on my mind.
“I tried to call him, couldn’t get a hold of him. But I wanted to get a hold of him some other way, so I got a hold of him through other people and just said, ‘Hey, I’ll meet with you tomorrow.’ But that’s all I know for a fact.”
Marrone excused him from today’s obligations but wouldn’t speculate about Branch’s future with the Bills. Branch was at the Bills’ walkthrough Friday at St. John Fisher College.
Branch was one of the Bills’ top free-agent acquisitions last year and signed an extension after the season. But he didn’t attend voluntary offseason workouts and failed his conditioning test when he reported for training camp.
Branch didn’t enter last week’s exhibition against the Pittsburgh Steelers until well into the fourth quarter and played alongside third- and fourth-stringers.
Buccaneers defensive end Steven Means had a decent homecoming. The Grover Cleveland High and University at Buffalo product got to play against the Bills starters after halftime.
Means was announced as having chased Manuel out of bounds for a 7-yard sack, but cornerback Anthony Gaitor got official credit.
Means is expected to get quality playing time this year as part of a defensive-end rotation.
The Bills got a little banged up Saturday.
Wide receivers Marquise Goodwin and T.J. Graham left the game with neck injuries and didn’t return.
Graham said he was removed from the game as a precaution and should play in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Detroit Lions. There was no update from Goodwin.
Also knocked out of the game were tight end Lee Smith with a toe injury and safety Da’Norris Searcy with a stinger.
Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who missed Thursday’s practice with a leg injury, didn’t dress for the game. Rookie receiver Sammy Watkins was held out because of his rib injury from last weekend.