Taylor named Bills starting quarterback over Manuel, Cassel

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(AP) — The Buffalo Bills are turning their offense over to Tyrod Taylor, who has won the starting job after a three-way quarterback competition during the offseason.

Coach Rex Ryan announced his decision following practice on Monday.

“It came down to the explosiveness Tyrod gives us,” Ryan said.

Taylor won the job over former Bills starter and 2013 first-round draft pick EJ Manuel, and Matt Cassel, a 10-year journeyman who was acquired in an offseason trade with Minnesota.

The decision comes two days after all three quarterbacks played with the starting offense in a 43-19 preseason win over Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Following the game, Ryan said he intended to spend Sunday meeting with his staff, front-office personnel and owners Terry and Kim Pegula to determine his starter.

Taylor signed a three-year contact with Buffalo in free agency this offseason after spending his first four years as Joe Flacco’s backup in Baltimore. The Ravens’ sixth-round pick out of Virginia Tech in 2011 saw very limited playing time in getting mostly mop-up duty.

Overall, he’s completed 19 of 35 attempts for 199 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in 14 career appearances, all as a backup. Taylor also has 27 rushes for 136 yards and a touchdown.

Quarterback has been a question mark in Buffalo since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired following the 1996 season. In that time, the Bills have had eight different season-opening starters, and 12 quarterbacks start at least five games.

Ryan said he expects to keep three quarterbacks but did not say which two passers he would keep behind Taylor.

Fourth-stringer Matt Simms is expected to start and play most if not all of Buffalo’s preseason finale at Detroit on Thursday night. The Bills then prepare to open the season at home against Indianapolis on Sept. 13.

Ryan, who took over after Doug Marrone stepped down on Dec. 31, prompted the Bills’ interest in signing Taylor. Ryan said he expressed interest in acquiring Taylor during his time coaching the Jets.

Taylor is a strong-armed and mobile quarterback whose ability to take off and run provides the Bills offense an added dimension as a rushing threat. That was evident on Saturday, when Taylor dropped back to pass, before seeing a gaping hole develop to his right. Taylor took off and outraced linebacker Sean Spence 20 yards to the goal line for a TD.

In 11 preseason series, Taylor went 24 of 31 for 236 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. But he had a hand in four touchdown drives, all scored on rushes.

He quickly developed into the popular quarterback choice among Bills fans, who began referring to Taylor as “T-Mobile,” a nickname the player first earned in college.

Cassel had an efficient but not spectacular preseason. He showed a capability of making smart and quick passes, and finished 13 of 15 for 83 yards and no touchdowns in four preseason series.

Manuel was stuck working with the second- and third-stringers as recently as three weeks ago before making his case to re-enter the starting conversation. He rallied the Bills to a late game-winning touchdown in an 11-10 win at Cleveland on Aug. 20, and then had a hand in three touchdown drives in four-plus series against Pittsburgh last weekend.

Manuel led all Bills quarterbacks by going 20 of 30 for 358 yards passing with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He went 2-2 to open last season before losing the starting job to Kyle Orton.


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