Equal opportunity – or at least as equal as it can get in the NFL – was the theme of the Buffalo Bills’ quarterback competition as the team held the first of its nine organized team activity (OTA) practices on Tuesday.
Matt Cassel and EJ Manuel each took snaps with the starting offense while Tyrod Taylor and Jeff Tuel worked with the backups, coach Rex Ryan said after the session, which was closed to the media.
The Bills employed what Ryan described as “two-spot” drills, with two offenses huddling simultaneously on separate fields. They plan to maintain that format through the rest of the offseason and training-camp practices.
Ryan said that Manuel and Taylor would work with the starters, while Cassel and Tuel would be with the backups in Wednesday’s practice, which is open to the media.
“You just keep rotating your guys like that,” Ryan said. “So they’re all going to get to work with each other. It’s not that big a deal right now. But the big thing is you want to evaluate all your players, not just the first team or second team. You want everybody and give guys fair chances and a lot of times, the cream will rise to the top and you’ll see something.
“Some guy will pop off the tape that maybe you weren’t so sure of, and now you feel pretty good about him. And then, likewise, you might have somebody that you think you were counting on that really isn’t showing up.”
Ryan saw some “nice things” from his quarterbacks Tuesday.
One of the more impressive plays was a deep ball that Cassel threw to wide receiver Percy Harvin for a touchdown. “He showed nice touch,” Ryan said. Taylor also connected on a long pass that caught the coach’s eye.
In addition, Manuel seems to be making big strides, according to Ryan. One of Manuel’s biggest shortcomings since joining the Bills as a first-round draft pick in 2013 has been his tendency to hesitate and be generally too slow with his decision-making.
That apparently wasn’t the case on Tuesday.
“The thing that stands out to me, it appears that EJ is getting a pretty good grasp of this system,” Ryan said. “He’s believing in what he’s seeing and he’s letting it rip. And that’s kind of what you want from the guy.
“Know what you’re seeing, believe in it, be right and pull the trigger. Let it fly. And I think that’s what we’re trying to do with all of these quarterbacks. It seems like it was pretty sharp” Tuesday.