In Week 1 of the 2015 NFL preseason, Matt Cassel got the start at quarterback for the Buffalo Bills. When the team visits the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night, it will be Tyrod Taylor’s turn to take the reins as Buffalo searches for its No.1 signal caller.
Three quarterbacks are technically competing for the Bills’ starting job, though it appears to be a two-man race. Both Cassel and Taylor took reps with the first-team offense this week, heading into Week 2 of the preseason.
All things being equal, Cassel might have the edge. He’s started 71 games in his career, and Taylor hasn’t gotten a start since he was drafted four years ago. Considering the injuries the Bills are facing, it won’t be easy for him to match Cassel’s performance from last week.
“I’m excited for it and I can’t wait to play,” Taylor told reporters. “I think all those years that I spent in Baltimore being behind Joe (Flacco) prepared me for this opportunity that I have now and I’m taking everything that I’ve learned previously and I’m putting it towards my game. Just taking it day by day and showing the coaches what I can do.”
Cassel was efficient in Buffalo’s preseason opener loss to the Carolina Panthers, completing all but one of his eight pass attempts for 45 yards. Taylor has been saddled with the task of starting without the Bills’ top running back, and possibly missing a few of the team’s best wide receivers, as well.
Buffalo’s biggest offseason acquisition, LeSean McCoy, suffered a hamstring injury that will sideline him for a few weeks. He’s expected to be ready for Week 1 of the regular season, but he won’t be available on Thursday night, less than a week after the Bills ran for 206 yards. Running back Fred Jackson is suffering from a hamstring injury that will force him out of Buffalo’s upcoming contest. Bryce Brown, who led the team with 52 rushing yards against the Panthers, is also banged up and will sit.
Sammy Watkins, who led Buffalo in receiving as a rookie last year, was held out of practice on Tuesday. With Watkins coming off surgery just a few months ago, the Bills are expected to be cautious with him. Percy Harvin is dealing with hip soreness, and he could miss Thursday’s games after the wide out was given an injection to help with the pain.
Taylor will have limited weapons when he plays in the first quarter against the Browns, and EJ Manuel will try to impress Buffalo’s coaching staff with a banged up roster, as well. Manuel could play up to two quarters, though he’s struggled so much during training camp that he doesn’t figure to be a real threat to win the starting job.
The only saving grace for the Bills’ quarterbacks is that they won’t have to face a few of Cleveland’s top defensive players. Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden’s hamstring could keep him sidelined against Buffalo, and Pro Bowl safety Tashaun Gipson might miss the game with a calf injury.
Josh McCown will start at quarterback for the Browns after completing all five pass attempts for 33 yards and one touchdown in his Cleveland debut last week. Johnny Manziel went seven-of-11 in the Browns’ Week 1 preseason loss to the Washington Redskins.
Start Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Online Stream: WatchESPN
Betting Odds: Cleveland-3, 40 (vegasinsider.com)