Thaddeus Lewis to start at QB for Bills

Bills turn to Thad Lewis as starting QB with Manuel (knee) sidelined

10/7/13 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

Thanks to the improbable, sensational rookie performances of quarterbacks like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, people may be starting to forget that not all great quarterbacks look like Hall of Famers in their first professional seasons. Just look to the year before Luck and RG3, when first overall pick Cam Newton posted a good-not-great passer rating of 84.5. Matthew Stafford - the first overall pick two years prior - registered a 61.0 passer rating across ten games as a rookie. When you consider those numbers, you have to think that Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel, who is 2-3 as a starter with a 79.4 passer rating, is off to a pretty solid start in his NFL career.

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.

Aug 29, 2013; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Thad Lewis (9) looks to make a pass during the second half against the Detroit Lions at Ralph Wilson Stadium.  The Lions won 35-13.   Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY SportsOn 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.
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