Injuries have Bills reeling at quarterback

August, 24, 2013
8/24/13
9:30
PM ET
When Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel went 19-for-23 passing for 212 yards in a win over the Indianapolis Colts two weeks ago, it was one of those preseason headlines that wrote itself.

"Tuel time," some called it. Nice little ring to that one.

But after Kevin Kolb left Saturday's game with a possible concussion, "Tuel time" has a whole new meaning for Bills fans:

"Uh-oh."

[+] EnlargeJeff Tuel
AP Photo/Nick WassWith injuries to EJ Manuel and, on Saturday, Kevin Kolb, the Bills could be looking at undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel, above, at quarterback.
The Bills are officially in a bind. An undrafted rookie from Washington State, Tuel is now the lone healthy quarterback on Buffalo's roster.

It's a nightmare scenario for first-year general manager Doug Whaley, who told the Buffalo News after Saturday's 30-7 loss to the Washington Redskins that the Bills will now need to search the free-agent market for another quarterback.

The options out there are limited (Tyler Thigpen, anyone?), and with just more than two weeks until the regular-season opener, it won't be easy for any new quarterback to learn the offense and be ready for game action.

Still, the Bills have scheduled a workout on Sunday with former first-round pick Matt Leinart, and will also host John Beck on a free-agent visit, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter confirmed. Leinart or Beck would have the advantage of experience over Tuel if the Bills needed to make that decision for their opener.

The next 10 days could be crucial in deciding the early course of the Bills' regular season. Rookie EJ Manuel is recovering from a "minor" procedure on his left knee, while Kolb will be evaluated for a possible concussion. The Bills' game plan for their opener against the New England Patriots will be in place by Sept. 4, and they will need to pick a quarterback by then.

If it's Tuel, the Bills are in a real tough spot. Performing well in the second half of a preseason opener is one thing, but once the regular season starts, it's the real deal. Having an undrafted rookie as your starting quarterback, even out of necessity, is playing with fire in the NFL.

Tuel's performance on Saturday (10-for-17, 63 yards) is along the lines of what you could expect against New England, if it comes down to him starting. He's shown the poise to handle the situation without making it a disaster, but the game will need to be won another way.

When the Bills began training camp nearly a month ago, the team's brass liked to talk about how offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett would bring an up-tempo philosophy to the offense that would keep defenses on their toes.

But now, it's the Bills on their heels. With Tuel, they would have likely the NFL's worst starting quarterback.

And that's not the Bills' fault. It's not Tuel's fault. It's just bad luck.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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