September 23, 2015

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Quarterback EJ Manuel can finally stop worrying about his role with the Buffalo Bills this season.

After bouncing up and down the depth chart to the point he began questioning his future with the team, Manuel cemented the job as Tyrod Taylor's backup Wednesday a day after journeyman Matt Cassel was traded to Dallas.

''My job was the third guy last week and now it's the second guy,'' Manuel said. ''So whatever comes to me. Now I just try to focus on that and block out everything else.''

It hasn't been easy for the Bills former starter and 2013 first-round draft pick after he was the odd-man out behind Taylor and Cassel following an offseason-long competition.

Manuel spent much of the past three weeks going from third- to second-string and then back and forth once more.

The yo-yoing began a week before the season, when the Bills released Cassel as part of a cost-cutting move to save on payroll before re-signing him to a less expensive contract a few days later.

This time, there's no chance of Cassel returning.

Manuel, who was inactive the first two games, will suit up for the first time this season on Sunday, when Buffalo (1-1) travels to play Miami (1-1).

''Of course you want to be out there, you want to be dressed, you want to have an opportunity to get on the field,'' Manuel said. ''At first it is tough, but once I understood and took myself out of the picture that it's a team thing.''

Now he'll feel plenty more part of the team after getting limited snaps in practice the past two weeks.

Bills coach Rex Ryan backed the move because it provides Manuel a better chance to develop in practice after showing signs of progress during the preseason.

''I think EJ Manuel really raised his game,'' Ryan said. ''This is going to be the best thing for our football team moving forward, because we think that EJ's going to keep ascending. He has a better chance of doing that as the No. 2 than a No. 3 quarterback.''

And yet that wasn't the case when Ryan picked Cassel over Manuel to start the season.

The Bills quarterback spot hasn't been settled since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired following the 1996 season. And questions remain at quarterback for a team eager to become a contender and end a 15-season playoff drought.

The Bills still took a calculated risk by trading Cassel, an 11-year journeyman, who was Buffalo's most experienced quarterback. Taylor and Manuel have combined for just 14 career starts, with Taylor's two coming in Buffalo after spending his first four seasons serving as Joe Flacco's backup in Baltimore.

Taylor is far from a proven commodity. After efficiently leading the Bills to a season-opening 27-14 win over Indianapolis, Taylor struggled by going 23 of 30 for 242 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions in a 40-32 loss to New England last weekend.

Manuel's track record has been spotty at best. He went 4-6 during his rookie season and then lost the starting job to Kyle Orton a month into last season.

''How it makes you better today? Maybe it doesn't,'' Ryan said, referring to the Bills acquiring a 2017 fifth-round pick in exchange for Cassel. ''But maybe down the road, it's going to help our football team because we feel that we have our quarterbacks of the present and the future in Tyrod Taylor and EJ Manuel.''

NOTES: RB LeSean McCoy was given a rest day in practice to take the load off a nagging hamstring injury. ... Taylor (chest), who was a full practice participant, landed on the Bills injury report. He was sacked eight times last weekend. ... WR Marquise Goodwin (ribs) and LB Tony Steward (knee) practiced for the first time after both were hurt during the preseason.


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