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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Doug Marrone came to the conclusion that three was a crowd in the Buffalo Bills quarterback competition.
Though the rookie head coach was nowhere near naming a starter Tuesday, Marrone said it’ll be easier to evaluate who wins the job now that it’s down to rookie first-round draft pick EJ Manuel and veteran free-agent addition Kevin Kolb.
“The more reps you give them, I think it’s going to be easier to tell it apart,” Marrone said, a day after the team released veteran backup Tarvaris Jackson, a former Alabama State standout. “I believe that we’ll be able to see it at training camp. I think the players on the team are going to be able to see that separation. And that’s the most important thing.”
Marrone and the Bills got their first glimpse at the pared-down quarterback rotation in opening a three-day mandatory minicamp. It’s the team’s last spring session until training camp opens July 28.
On Tuesday, Kolb and Manuel evenly split the practice time, with undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel getting limited snaps at the end of each series of sessions. That’s a significant switch from the Bills first 10 spring minicamp practices, when Kolb and Jackson split the starting duties ahead of Manuel and Tuel.
Jackson, a seventh-year player, was the odd man out. He was acquired by Buffalo in a trade with Seattle in September, but spent all of last season as the team’s third-stringer.
The quarterback competition is attracting the most interest in Buffalo on a team that’s undergoing yet another top-to-bottom transition. Marrone was hired in January after Chan Gailey was fired following three consecutive losing seasons.
The Bills have gone 13 seasons without a playoff berth — the NFL’s longest active drought. And many of their troubles can be pinned on a quarterback position that’s been mostly unsettled since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired following the 1996 season.
Manuel was the only quarterback selected in the first round of the draft.
At 6-foot-4, he’s a strong-armed mobile player, who went 25-6 in four seasons with the Seminoles. Despite Manuel’s success, questions were raised over his decision-making skills. He finished with 47 touchdowns and 28 interceptions, which were the result of him occasionally forcing throws.
Marrone is being careful to ease Manuel into the job.
“We just want to make sure that we’re taking it at a natural progression,” Marrone said. “We’re building him up.”
This story was originally published at: http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/viewart/20130613/SPORTS0403/306130018