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Aug 31, 2015 6:07 PM

Taylor named Bills starting quarterback over Manuel, Cassel

The Associated Press

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who goes by the nickname "T-Mobile," got the call to be the Buffalo Bills' season-opening starter.

Though he's never started an NFL game in four seasons, Taylor's dynamic dual-threat potential trumped the experience of his two competitors when coach Rex Ryan made his long-awaited decision on Monday.

"It came down to basically that explosiveness that Tyrod brings to us," Ryan said. "All three guys made it difficult, but at the end of the day, that's kind of what we went with."

Taylor won the job over former Bills starter and 2013 first-round draft pick EJ Manuel, and Matt Cassel, a 10-year journeyman who was acquired in an offseason trade with Minnesota.

The decision was made two days after all three quarterbacks played with the starting offense in a 43-19 preseason win over Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Taylor displayed his potential against the Steelers, when he went 12 of 13 for 122 yards passing and scored on a 20-yard run. In 11 preseason series, Taylor went 24 of 31 for 236 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. But he had a hand in four touchdown drives, all scored on rushes.

For Taylor, this was the opportunity he was seeking in March, when he signed a three-year contract with the Bills in free agency. He's now gone from spending the past four seasons entrenched as Joe Flacco's backup in Baltimore to overseeing a retooled Bills offense featuring running back LeSean McCoy and receivers Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin.

"I've had a goal in mind and just continued to keep working, and excited that they gave me the opportunity to start," Taylor said. "And we can do special things on the offensive side of the ball."

Taylor was the Ravens' 2011 sixth-round pick out of Virginia Tech, where he went 34-8 and set school records with 7,017 yards passing and 2,196 yards rushing (the most by a quarterback). In Baltimore, he completed 19 of 35 attempts for 199 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in 14 career appearances. Taylor also has 27 rushes for 136 yards and a touchdown.

Ryan, who took over after Doug Marrone stepped down on Dec. 31, prompted the Bills' interest in signing Taylor. Ryan said he expressed interest in acquiring Taylor during his time coaching the Jets.

The only knock against Taylor has been his height. At 6-foot-1, he's comparatively small for an NFL quarterback. And Taylor occasionally struggled seeing above onrushing linemen to find receivers downfield during training camp.

Harvin has been a big fan of Taylor's since their high school days in Virginia, and pleased with Ryan's decision.

"He didn't surprise me," Harvin said. "With the weapons we already have, I think teams are going to have to worry about that, and now have to worry about his legs, too, I think it's going to be tremendously dangerous for opponents to prepare for us."

Manuel, who lost his starting job to Kyle Orton a month into last season, was disappointed upon learning he didn't reclaim his old job, but fully backed Taylor.

"I thought I had a pretty good preseason. But it's the coach's decision. And all I can do is work hard and be a good teammate for this team," Manuel said. "If you weren't chosen, it's not the end of the road for you."

Ryan declined to reveal whether Manuel or Cassel will be the primary backup. Ryan expects all three quarterbacks to remain on the Bills roster when they open the season at home against Indianapolis on Sept. 13.

Fourth-stringer Matt Simms is expected to start and play most if not all of Buffalo's preseason finale at Detroit on Thursday night.

Quarterback has been a question mark in Buffalo since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired following the 1996 season. In that time, the Bills have had eight different season-opening starters, and 12 quarterbacks start at least five games.

Cassel had an efficient but not spectacular preseason. He showed a capability of making smart and quick passes, and finished 13 of 15 for 83 yards and no touchdowns in four preseason series.

Manuel led all Bills quarterbacks by going 20 of 30 for 358 yards passing with four touchdowns and no interceptions.


AP NFL websites: http://pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL


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