Remember when EJ Manuel and Kevin Kolb were competing for the Buffalo Bills starting quarterback job? That now seems like a distant memory, with the Bills making two acquisitions on Sunday in an effort to cover their bases heading into the regular season. Let's recap the position, player by player, to wrap our minds around the changes.
Buffalo's first-round draft pick (and, now, full-time starter) is one week removed from minor surgery on his left knee. That injury will keep him out of Thursday's preseason finale against Detroit. Here's the good news, though: Manuel is reportedly on track to start in Week 1, and the Bills - head coach Doug Marrone in particular - have spoken confidently of his recovery and downplayed the severity of the situation. When the Bills play the New England Patriots on September 8, the expectation for now seems to be that Manuel will be under center.
This undrafted free agent out of Washington State, with 105 preseason reps to date, is well on his way to playing more than Manuel (61) and Kolb (57) combined this preseason. He logged a lot of first-team reps against Washington, and will start on Thursday against Detroit, playing with and against the ones (and perhaps much longer). If Manuel somehow isn't ready for the first regular season game, Tuel's the man. Right now, he's the backup quarterback, Bills fans.
Kolb suffered a concussion on what appeared to be a relatively light tap on the back of the helmet while scrambling during Saturday's loss to Washington. (Deadspin has video of the hit.) The concussion is serious, says ESPN's Adam Schefter, and both he and Tim Graham of The Buffalo News report that the Bills are proceeding as if Kolb's career is in jeopardy, given that this is his third concussion as a pro. Note that Kolb's career may not actually be in jeopardy; it may just be prudent for the Bills to react as if it is. Kolb will take a long list of tests early this week, which should provide a prognosis for his availability to the team moving forward. We may not have seen the last of Kolb yet in a Bills uniform, but clearly, the health concerns are the big issue for the moment.
Knowing that Manuel and Kolb would not be available for Thursday's preseason finale, at minimum, the Bills signed Leinart, the 30-year-old former Top 10 draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals. Leinart was in Oakland as a backup during the 2012 season, but was not retained as a free agent. He remained unsigned, with minimal interest, until Buffalo came calling over the weekend. He'll be on the practice field today, and there's a good chance that we'll see him in uniform taking some snaps when the Bills play on Thursday evening.
Adding one quarterback was not enough for the Bills on Sunday; they also flipped reserve linebacker Chris White to the Detroit Lions in exchange for 25-year-old Lewis, a former undrafted free agent out of Duke. Detroit had claimed Lewis off of waivers from Cleveland in late May - just before the Bills were moving on from Tarvaris Jackson, for a point of reference - and had been stuck behind Kellen Moore trying to earn the Lions' third-team job. From a football shape perspective, Lewis will come in ahead of Leinart, though the latter clearly has an edge in the experience department. Lewis will likely be dressed and active Thursday night, but it'll be interesting to see which of he and Leinart will be worked into the game first.
Right now, Manuel and Tuel are mortal locks to make the Bills' final 53-man roster. If Kolb is out for an extended period of time, Leinart may make the most sense as a reserve, as he can play the role of veteran counterpoint to two rookies. How Lewis figures into the mix remains to be seen, but it does not seem particularly likely that the Bills will keep four quarterbacks - though that's certainly possible if Manuel is suddenly unavailable for Week 1.