Bills turn to Thad Lewis as starting QB with Manuel (knee) sidelined
Unfortunately, he'll have to put his sixth professional start on hold thanks to a big hit on a scramble that resulted in a sprained LCL in his knee. The Bills - who were almost forced to start undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel in their season opener - have very limited talent behind Manuel on their depth chart. Tuel came on for Manuel after the injury Thursday night and looked horrible, showing a lack of poise and an inability to throw the ball downfield. Tuel finished 8-for-20 with 80 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception - good for a 31.2 passer rating and 1.96 QBR.
On the heels of the horrendous performance from Tuel, the Bills have decided to go with a different option while Manuel sits out for the next six weeks or so. The Bills signed Thaddeus Lewis off their practice squad and announced that he will start in Week 6 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
An undrafted free agent out of Duke, Lewis spent the previous two seasons with the Cleveland Browns. He has only appeared in one game throughout his NFL career, but actually performed much better than expected. He got a spot start in the Browns' final 2012 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he threw for 204 yards with a touchdown and an interception, registering an 83.3 passer rating.
Despite his career passer rating currently being better than Manuel's, Lewis is still a significant downgrade for the Bills. Manuel was really starting to show some chemistry with his receivers - particularly fellow rookie Robert Woods. Manuel also possesses superior mobility, which often came in handy behind a suspect Bills offensive line.
The Bills reportedly "intensified their pursuit" of Josh Freeman - who ended up signing with the Vikings - on Sunday, which suggests that they may have been trying to avoid having to start Lewis. They will adopt an extremely run-heavy approach featuring C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, and they should run enough to allow both running backs to carry standalone fantasy value. Where it once looked like Manuel had a shot - albeit a very long one - at bringing the Bills to the postseason, it is going to be very tough for Lewis to keep them in playoff contention while Manuel is sidelined. The Bills face the Bengals, Dolphins, Saints, and Chiefs over the next four weeks.