The Buffalo Bills are planning to start undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel at quarterback for the season opener vs. New England September 8. Bills coach Doug Marrone made the announcement Monday.
Tuel started training camp the team's third-string QB. But injuries to fellow rookie EJ Manuel, the team's first-round pick in April's Draft, and free agent acquisition Kevin Kolb have moved Tuel to the top of the depth chart.
"Right now, we have to prepare. He's the quarterback that's out there. We've got to prepare for him to be that guy until the situation changes and we get EJ back," Marrone said Monday.
Tuel is 6'3", 221 lbs. out of Washington State. He signed as a free agent on April 29. The Elias Sports Bureau says Tuel would be the first undrafted rookie QB in the common draft era (since 1967) to start a team's season opener.
Marrone said Monday he is "hoping" Manuel could be ready in time for the opening game. Manuel suffered a knee injury which required surgery earlier this month. Kolb suffered a concussion following a hit in Saturday's 30-7 preseason loss to the Washington Redskins. Kolb has a history of concussions.
Following Kolb's injury, the Bills moved quickly to acquire two quarterbacks for the roster. The team signed free agent quarterback Matt Leinart, a former Heisman Trophy winner who was the 10th overall pick out of USC in the 2006 Draft. The team also acquired QB Thaddeus Lewis from Detroit in a trade for linebacker Chris White.
The team received more bad news Monday with word that top cornerback Stephon Gilmore will miss six to eight weeks of action after fracturing his wrist in Saturday's preseason game. That equates to six regular season game for Gilmore, the 10th overall pick in 2012 Draft, leaving the Bills thin at a key position.
The Bills cut five players Monday, most notably wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers. Rogers was an undrafted rookie free agent out of Tennessee who many considered to be the best player not taken in April's NFL Draft. Also released were wide receiver DeMarco Sampson, center Ryan Turnley, cornerback Jumal Rolle, and defensive back Dominique Ellis.