New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan stands on the field in the second half against the Denver Broncos in week 6 of the NFL season at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on October 12, 2014. The Broncos defeated the Jets 31-17. UPI /John Angelillo | License Photo
PITTSFORD, N. Y. -- Head coach Rex Ryan did his best to put a smiley face on what transpired in the Buffalo Bills' blue-white scrimmage Saturday night, but it was difficult to be sure. In fact, it has been a laborious task every day since the Bills opened training camp July 31.
The Bills have a serious problem at quarterback, and while he's trying to stay upbeat, Ryan knows Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel and Tyrod Taylor need to start showing some progress if any of them is going to win the job.
"Maybe I was looking for a little separation, or someone to rise to the occasion, but that really didn't happen," Ryan said, reviewing the first week and a half of training camp.
"Everybody had their moments. I thought EJ had the best of the scrimmage, (Monday) it was clearly Cassel, and the previous two days it was Tyrod. I'm looking for that consistent guy that's going to be at the top each time out. I'm patient, we haven't even gotten to a preseason game. I expected this to draw out a little bit, and to be fair, the big thing is to be fair and get the right guy, make the right decision."
Cassel seems to be the front-runner at this stage, and Ryan announced Monday that he will get the start Friday when the Bills open their preseason at home against Carolina.
"We will start him on Friday, and how much work he gets, we'll see," Ryan said after a steamy practice at St. John Fisher College. "We'll get them all work through these preseason games and he'll get the first shot."
Cassel has had the most time with the first string, but not by much. Manuel and Taylor are very close in reps, and the issue is that none of the three has been able to put together back-to-back impressive days. There are occasional flashes, but far more inaccurate throws or poor decisions.
In the scrimmage, the Bills offense had 17 possessions against Buffalo's stout defense, and scored only one touchdown and two field goals. "We got one touchdown the whole night, I get it, but when you go back and look, that's normally what you get in a first scrimmage," said Ryan. "It's not surprising that we never lit it up. It's not like we're game-planning ourselves, we're just putting the ball down and letting guys play. Overall, I think we did a few good things, we'll learn a lot from the tape, and you move forward."
Ryan said defense is always ahead of offense at this point in the summer.
"I'm used to having a great defense and I think the defense at this stage of the game is way ahead of the offense, so I don't anticipate ever giving up any points in these things going back to my days in Baltimore as a coordinator," said Ryan. "When you have to drive 70 yards against a good defense, I'm not surprised by it at all."
Cassel admitted to being disappointed by what happened in the scrimmage, even though he had the fewest reps of the three. He completed 2 of 6 passes, then watched his fellow quarterbacks struggle, too. Manuel directed the only scoring drive, hitting running back Bryce Brown with an 18-yard touchdown pass after escaping trouble in the pocket.
"Obviously the defense came out and dominated all day," said Cassel. "So we've got a lot of work to do offensively. We've got to come and we've got to do a better job all around and that is basically what happened. I thought we had put together a good string of practices here offensively. The fact of the matter is you know anytime you are out here you want to be competitive, you want to come out and you want to beat the defense. And so obviously that is disappointing."
Manuel said he wasn't too concerned about the scrimmage, saying it was just that, a scrimmage.
"I know we'll be ready to go come the Carolina game," he said. "We can't look too much into it. I know offensively we'll get a lot better. It's still practice, just a scrimmage, no reason to get too worked up."