E.J. Manuel continues to push for Bills’ starting quarterback job

Brian McIntyre
Shutdown Corner

Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone is not expected to make a decision on a starting quarterback two games into the preseason competition between veteran Kevin Kolb and first-round pick E.J. Manuel, but thus far, it appears as though Manuel will be the starter when the Bills open the regular season against the New England Patriots on Sept. 8.

Through two preseason games, Manuel has completed 26 of 33 pass attempts (a 78.8 completion percentage) for 199 yards with two touchdowns for a passer rating of 111.9. Manuel only scrambled one time for one yard against the Minnesota Vikings on Friday night, but he had a 24-yard run in the preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts and his mobility adds another dimension to the Bills' offense.

As for Kolb, he would have started the preseason opener, but suffered a minor knee injury and missed some practice time to attend to a personal matter in the days before the meeting with the Colts. Kolb starting against the Vikings made sense as the coaching staff needed to see him work with the first-team offense to make an informed decision on who will start when the bullets begin to fly in September.

Kolb did little in Friday night's 20-16 win over the Vikings to sway the decision in his favor. Possessions with Kolb under center went punt-interception-punt-punt-punt before Kolb led the Bills on a pair of drives resulting in field goals. When Manuel entered the game, he led a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to open the second half.

In a full half of work, Kolb completed 13-of-21 pass attempts for 111 yards and an interception, resulting in a passer rating of 58.3. Kolb's interception was not completely his fault – rookie Marquise Goodwin failed to beat press coverage from Vikings rookie cornerback Xavier Rhodes – but Kolb shoulders some of the blame as he locked on Goodwin, who was never open, and his throw was to the inside shoulder, allowing for the ball to be tipped in the air and intercepted by safety Jamarca Sanford.

As mentioned earlier, Marrone probably won't name a starter for the regular season until after three preseason games are in the books, but we fully expect Manuel to start next Saturday afternoon's preseason game against the Washington Redskins. If Manuel plays well in that game, as well, Marrone might want to go ahead and end the competition once and for all.

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