Some teams came out of the pre-season in pretty difficult shape, and you’d have to say that one of those teams was the Buffalo Bills, who are priced at +7500 to win the AFC in the NFL futures odds at GTBets.com. What compounds things is that this is Doug Marrone’s first season on the job.
The word going into training camp was that E.J. Manuel, the first-round pick out of Florida State, was going to have every opportunity to win the starting quarterback job over stale veteran Kevin Kolb, and then this talk got magnified as Kolb suffered a freak injury during a team workout. But Manuel tweaked his knee and they have been very careful with it. Now Kolb is suffering from the effects of a concussion. so Buffalo was in the precarious position of almost having to turn to Jeff Tuel as the opening week starter against the New England Patriots (where the Bills are a 9.5-point dog). Tuel, who is right out of Mike Leach’s “Air Raid” offense at Washington State, was not even drafted, and had he made this start, it would be the first time for an undrafted rookie in an opening game since the NFL merger. But Manuel was pronounced fit to play late in the week, so Tuel will watch from the bench, for a little while anyway.
You never know what will happen to a guy who has an existing injury, so everybody will keep a close eye on Manuel. And Tuel is no stranger to coming in cold; in fact, he was the first true freshman to start at quarterback at Wazzu since Drew Bledsoe. His stats were not overwhelming as a senior; in fact, he had eight touchdown passes and eight interceptions. Tuel’s best season was 2010, when he had 18 TD passes and his highest passer rating at 133.3. But he was not even invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. That he may have to come into the game if anything happens to Manuel is perhaps a scary proposition.
The New York Jets’ quarterback situation is not any more stable as they head into the first game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where they are a 3.5-point underdog in the NFL odds at GTBets.com. And it involves another rookie. Geno Smith, like Manuel, was expected to compete for the starting quarterback job, and it was clear right from the beginning that general manager Jeff Idzik wanted him to win the position. Well, jobs may be lost depending on what happens, but suffice it to say that Idzik and coach Rex Ryan may have had a difference in terms of whether Smith was ready to ascend to the starting job and that may have influenced a couple of decisions that have come into question. One of those decisions was to allow Smith to return to practice perhaps a bit too early after injuring his knee against the Detroit Lions (Smith threw four interceptions in one workout), and the other involved Ryan putting Mark Sanchez into the pre-season game against the Giants with eleven minutes left, when there were second and third-team players in the game. Sanchez injured his shoulder and that has essentially put Smith into the starting quarterback job by default.
One could argue with Ryan for doing that with Sanchez, and a lot of Jet fans certainly are. But you have to understand that there was a QB battle going on, and maybe Ryan didn’t think there should have been. So he may have wanted to give Sanchez another opportunity to show what he could do so he could have a little more leverage with management. Idzik always talked a lot more optimistically about Smith’s chances than Ryan did. They’ll deny all of it, but it makes perfect sense. And so the Jets are sending an untested rookie out to throw into the teeth of a revamped Tampa Bay secondary, which will include former Jet Darrelle Revis.
There was another interesting development with the Oakland Raiders, who were, we assume, counting on Matt Flynn, who was acquired from the Seattle Seahawks, where he was not longer needed, to assume the starting QB role. But there was also the presence of Terrelle Pryor, who was the most sought-after high school player in the country before signing with Ohio State, and when declared ineligible, was taken in a supplemental draft by the Raiders. Pryor is a great athlete, but has never distinguished himself as a passer, so the idea that he could be ready for a starting position after throwing just 30 passes would seem a bit ludicrous. Yet that is exactly where he is, as Oakland, which is a +425 money line underdog at Indianapolis on Sunday, seeks somebody who can make some plays outside of the pocket. Well, Flynn was beaten out by Russell Wilson with the Seahawks last year, but we sincerely doubt Pryor is going to duplicate what Wilson accomplished.
There might be a little gamesmanship going on, but as they came out of camp the Green Bay Packers, who will be a 4.5-point underdog at GTBets to the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday action, signed not one, but two quarterbacks who were in the Niners’ camp and just cut loose.
As the Packers cut former Pro Bowl quarterback Vince Young, they needed to fill gaps, and so what they did was ink a deal with Seneca Wallace, who will provide an experienced backup for Aaron Rodgers, and Scott Tolzien, a youngster out of Wisconsin.
Could the Pack be looking to pick up a little “intelligence” on what is going on in the 49er playbook? Well, not that there are a lot of secrets in terms of what kinds of plays are used by NFL teams, but this kind of thing has been done before, and surely will be done again. What will be interesting to see is what happens to Tolzien in particular after this season opener. He was with San Francisco for almost the whole camp, so maybe his usefulness extends to what he has to offer in the way of “insight.”