ORCHARD PARK N.Y. – In the aftermath of a docile collapse out in Oakland, the future of quarterback Tyrod Taylor in Buffalo has been called into question with the Bills passing attack currently ranked dead last in the NFL. Despite head coach Rex Ryan’s desperate attempts to defend his quarterback with the playoffs still a slim possibility, the thought of starting rookie quarterback Cardale Jones has gained some serious momentum.
Earlier this week Ryan shut down any suggestion of giving Jones a look for the remainder of the season, remarking, “as much as it doesn’t feel like it, we are still in the hunt here and we are going to do whatever we can to win … At no time are we looking at that. We are trying to win these next four games.”
Fast forward a few days later and Ryan shared some updates regarding the 24-year-old’s progress throughout the season.
“He’s done a good job in the classroom,” Ryan said of Jones on Thursday. “As a rookie quarterback, seeing what it’s like in the NFL, all the meetings and the prep and all that stuff, and then coming out here – we try to split reps with E.J. [Manuel] and Cardale [Jones] on the scout team and he’s done a good job.”
Offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn’s took his assessment of the Ohio State product even further. “He’s working hard. He’s a gunslinger, strong arm. We evaluate his reps on the scout team, he’s putting the ball in the right place – he’s accurate. I think his development is coming along fine. I don’t know what went on at Ohio State, but here, he’s picked up the offense well.
“It’s hard [to evaluate him] without seeing him in a game, but you watch him in practice, you watch him in individual drills, you watch his footwork and his arm strength – he’s what you want waiting on the runway.”
Upon being drafted in the fourth-round of this year’s draft, the Bills were well aware that they were getting a project at quarterback in Jones – one that they hope will blossom into a future starter for the franchise. At training camp he showed obvious deficiencies in his accuracy and often relied too heavily on his arm strength to try and make plays. Ryan has remained adamant that a red-shirt type season for rookie quarterbacks can be beneficial, but it’s evident through his and Lynn’s comments, that they’re impressed with Jones’ work ethic and development.
Jones has spent the first 13, soon to be 14, weeks of his first NFL season as the team’s third-string QB, however with the Bills playoff hopes hanging on by a thread, that metaphoric runway may be cleared for takeoff a little sooner than expected. If called upon, Jones feels he’s ready. “[I’m] just taking advantage of all my opportunities,” he said. “Basically gong off our coaches feedback and improving on things they want to see improved each and every day.
“What I think – which really doesn’t matter cause I’m not the coach – I’m ready,” Jones said. “The competitor in me says ‘ya I’m ready to play, put me out there right now.’ One-on-11. But realistically that’s up to the coaches.”
A loss to the Steelers this weekend will all but secure a 17th year without playoff football in Western New York, possibly making that decision an inevitable one for the Bills coaches.
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