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Despite Cardale Jones’ intrigue, EJ Manuel has firm grasp on Bills’ backup QB spot

Manuel’s steady play in preseason reaffirms that he’s the guy behind Tyrod Taylor

Over the past 16 years of the Buffalo Bills playoff drought, it’s hard to come up with a player ridiculed more than quarterback EJ Manuel.

Sure, defensive end/outside linebacker Aaron Maybin faced his share of criticism after being selected 11th overall in 2009 and never recording a single sack for the Bills. Defensive tackle Torell Troup was drafted one pick ahead of Rob Gronkowski. Tackle Mike Williams ranks as the biggest draft bust in team history.

But EJ? Other players just don’t measure up – immense negativity follows him everywhere.

So after rookie quarterback Cardale Jones received passing grades in his first two preseason games with the Bills, it’s no surprise that some fans wonder if the former Ohio State signal-caller can unseat Manuel as the team’s backup quarterback behind Tyrod Taylor.

I don’t think that’s happening anytime soon.

It’s easy to be intrigued by Jones – he’s 6-foot-6, 250 pounds and a freak athlete with a cannon arm. It’s easy to lack confidence in Manuel – he’s unraveled miserably numerous times in his tenure with the Bills. (Including turning the ball over three times in a span of just a few minutes against Jacksonville in 2015.)

After being selected 16th overall in 2013, Manuel was billed as the franchise quarterback the Bills had been missing since Jim Kelly (at least that’s what his draft position inferred). And while he’s failed to be that guy the Bills hoped for, he’s really not too of bad of an option at backup quarterback.

Sporting News ranked Manuel as the 18th best backup quarterback in the league, so there definitely are worse options.

While Jones has shown positive signs in his first two preseason games, Manuel has looked better and has experience on his side.

Manuel led two touchdown drives against Indianapolis last week, going 10 of 18 for 91 yards and a touchdown. He followed that up with two touchdown drives against the Giants on Saturday, completing 8 of 13 passes for 69 yards and a score.

Jones hasn’t looked bad either, but he’s played against mostly roster-rubble players.

Jones’ stats

Indianapolis: 11 of 21 for 162 yards and a touchdown

New York: 6 of 12 for 83 yards and an interception.

He flashed the potential fans were looking for against Indy when he led an 83-yard touchdown drive in the final 1:03 to put the Bills in position to win. However, Jones’ overall preseason performance thus far is on point with what he’s been doing in practice. One play he’s wow’d by zipping the ball into tight coverage, the next play he’s throwing the ball erratically out of bounds.

John Ramsey (@YardsPerPass on Twitter) broke down Jones’ highs and lows against the Giants.

Bottom Line

Jones simply isn’t ready right now to jump into a regular season game if Taylor goes down. Until he can be consistent from one play to the next, it’s Manuel’s job. That’s not to say that if Jones continues to get better he can’t leapfrog Manuel at some point this season – but it’d be in the Bills’ best interest to keep Jones at No. 3 on the depth chart to give him adequate time to develop his raw skills.