In looking at NFL teams caught in a quarterback shuffle, we found that 11 teams have had to go to a backup quarterback for at least one start over the course of the season. In our next installment, we look at the issues facing the St. Louis Rams (3-4) and the Buffalo Bills (3-4).
For the Rams, quarterback Sam Bradford was doing well until a season-ending knee injury in last week’s game against the Carolina Panthers. With 5:27 remaining in the fourth quarter, Bradford scrambled for the sideline on a second down play. Carolina safety Mike Mitchell pushed the fleeing quarterback before he made it to the sideline. Bradford landed badly on his knee as he hit the ground, and despite walking off the field, was taken to the locker room on a cart. Backup Kellen Clemens stepped in to finish the game.
Clemens has clocked eight years in the NFL since he was picked in the second round of the 2006 draft by the New York Jets. Clemens came to the Rams in 2011 and has started 31 games in his career. He has completed 198 of 382 passes for 2290 yards, averaging six yards per pass. He has seven touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Kellen knows the offense but has no illusions about his place in the organization. “The other guys know they’re going to need to up their game a little bit,” he said in reference to filling in for Bradford. Clemens refers to Bradford as “the franchise quarterback” and went on to say everyone has been supportive and he is looking forward to playing.
Kellen has worked with Rams’ offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer for seven years beginning when they were both with the Jets. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said that the offense should not change much from Bradford to Clemens, considering that history.
Since Clemens was the only other quarterback on the roster, the Rams shopped around Monday for backups, reportedly even reaching out to retired 44-year old legend and future Hall of Famer Brett Favre. On NFL Network, Favre reported he turned down the offer because “it took 20 years but I realized I don’t like getting hit.”
So the Rams found and signed quarterback Brady Quinn, released by the Jets on Monday but spent time in the Seahawks’ training camp, and Austin Davis who was their No. 3 quarterback last year.
The Rams are scheduled to play the Seattle Seahawks (6-1) on Monday Night Football. Clemens will start against one of the hardest hitting defenses in the league. Coach Jeff Fisher believes he will implement the offense well but he has two backups just in case things go awry for Clemens.
For the Bills, they started the year with rookie E. J. Manuel, but lost him to a strained LCL. He ended up needing surgery and the Bills’ organization expects him back anywhere from four to eight weeks as of Oct. 4.
Manuel completed 85 of 150 passes for 985 yards averaging 6.6 yards per pass. He has five touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He was sacked 13 times for a 74 yard loss and has a QBR of 79.4.
Enter second string quarterback Thad Lewis. Lewis got his second career start against the Cincinnati Bengals’ unyielding defense, but acquit himself well in the loss with 19 of 32 completions for 216 yards. He threw two touchdowns, one of them a 40-yard pass to Marquise Goodwin to tie that game and ran for a 3-yard touchdown. Lewis also threw the Bills’ longest completion, a 47-yard pass to T. J. Graham. Sometime during the fourth quarter, Lewis sprained his foot
X-rays and MRI’s showed no broken bones and Lewis was set to start against the Miami Dolphins the next week. The Bills won against the Dolphins 23-21 with Lewis at quarterback, but the foot continued to plague him.
Jeff Tuel played on Thursday Night Football against the Cleveland Browns as second string to Manuel but his performance as less than stellar. Tuel was an undrafted free agent from Washington State and was passed over after that TNF game in favor of Lewis. In preseason, Tuel completed 72 percent of his passes for two touchdown and no interceptions. Overall, Tuel completed 8 of 20 passes for 80 yards. He has no touchdowns but one interception. He has been sacked twice for a loss of 11 yards, and holds a QBR of 31.3.
Tuel sat out the final preseason game, which would have given him valuable experience to start the season. Manuel was ready in time for the season opener and dashed his hopes as starter. The signing of Matt Flynn pushed Tuel further down the depth chart, and with Flynn now on the roster, Manuel and Lewis injured, Tuel once again slides into the backup slot. Although Tuel knows the Bills’ schemes, Flynn has an advantage the developing rookie quarterback cannot top: Experience.
In Matt Flynn, the Bills have a six-year veteran quarterback who is accustomed to learning new systems. He has played for the Green Bay Packers, Seahawks, and was recently cut by the Oakland Raiders. Over the course of his career he has spent much of his time as a backup, but he has played in 39 NFL games, completing 109 of 175 passes for 1329 yards, averaging 4.5 yards per pass. He has 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. Sadly, Flynn has been sacked 20 times but only lost 95 yards to those sacks.
The Bills will play the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans at the Superdome this Sunday. New Orleans is coming off a bye and sitting at 5-1 in the division. Bills head coach Doug Marrone was offensive coordinator for the Saints once upon a time and this may give him an advantage. With Rob Ryan at defensive coordinator, the Saints are not about to take the Bills for granted, no matter who the quarterback turns out to be.
By: Brandi Tasby