Following the Buffalo Bills' preseason loss to Carolina on Friday night, head coach Rex Ryan announced that quarterback Tyrod Taylor will start the team's next exhibition game, against the Cleveland Browns in prime time this Thursday.
"Tyrod will get the first reps. He’s going to start," Ryan said late on Friday night. "He’s going to get a lot of the first reps, so we'll do it business as usual, but he’ll be getting the first shot at it, so he’ll be probably getting a few more reps."
Taylor came on in relief of veteran Matt Cassel (7-of-8, 45 yards in two drives) in the second quarter of the Bills' 25-24 loss to Carolina last night, and promptly led touchdown drives on his first two possessions against backup defenders. He supplemented 5-of-8 passing for 49 yards with 47 rushing yards on six ground attempts. Two of those runs drew penalties that aided the first drive (a late hit out of bounds, and a horse-collar tackle), and he also took a few shots down the left sideline, one of which slipped through the hands of Deonte Thompson in the end zone.
What is less clear at this point is which quarterback will be following Taylor in the rotation against Cleveland. Following starts from Cassel and now Taylor, one would assume that EJ Manuel would start the team's third preseason game in two weeks against Pittsburgh. That has not yet been determined, however, according to Ryan.
"(EJ) did start the first preseason game, I think - I mean, our blue-white scrimmage - so every guy gets opportunities," Ryan said. "We’ll see."
Manuel, playing with the third-team offense, completed 4-of-8 passes for 77 yards and the big highlight of the night, a 51-yard touchdown pass to Thompson in the third quarter. Receivers dropped two more of his passes, and he also had two poor snaps from reserve center Alex Kupper that he had to cover up on his first possession. Manuel may have earned a longer look with the starters, but only time will tell if he's afforded that opportunity.
Taylor, meanwhile, will have his opportunity to gain a lot of ground this week with a strong showing against Mike Pettine and the Cleveland defense.