Ex-Browns QB Lewis Has Great Chance To Impress With Bills
By Steven King
Thaddeus Lewis is not going to make Buffalo Bills fans forget Jim Kelly, Jack Kemp and Joe Ferguson.
But he is going to make them forget Jeff Tuel.
And with rookie E.J. Manuel out for several weeks due to knee surgery, that’s about as much as the fans – and the Bills – can hope for.
Lewis will start at quarterback for Buffalo against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Bills coach Doug Marrone made the move after bypassing Tuel, who came on after Manuel got hurt and finished out a 37-24 loss to the Cleveland Browns last Thursday night. Tuel was 8-for-20 passing for 80 yards with an interception, which sealed the deal for the Browns.
While Tuel was put into a tough situation – being asked to play after getting virtually no practice reps in a short work week – the fact of the matter is that he was an undrafted rookie for a reason. Marrone was right when he said that starting Lewis will give the Bills the best chance to win against Cincinnati. Lewis, who will turn 26 on Nov. 19, was acquired from the Detroit Lions in an Aug. 25 trade and had spent all of his time on the practice squad following his acquistion.
Lewis knows the Bengals well. He got a chance to see them four times over the last two seasons as a member of the Browns. As the No. 3 quarterback, he served as QB Andy Dalton while running the Bengals’ scout team in practices leading up to those four games.
But more important – much more important – is the fact Lewis has some talent. A product of Duke, he was originally signed by St. Louis as an undrafted free agent in 2010. Waived early that year, he was re-signed to the Rams’ practice squad, where he spent the entire season.
His offensive coordinator with the Rams was Pat Shurmur, who was named Cleveland’s coach in 2011 and quickly signed Lewis when St. Louis waived him at the end of training camp. Lewis did not play at all in 2011 and sat for the first 15 games in 2012 as the Browns worked their way through quarterbacks Brandon Weeden, Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace during those two seasons. Despite Shurmur’s relationship with him, Lewis wasn’t even a consideration to get any playing time unless something catastrophic happened.
Weeden and McCoy both got hurt and were unavailable, leaving Lewis as the last man standing for finale against Pittsburgh.
He couldn’t beat the Steelers at Pittsburgh, something that’s been tough for any Browns quarterback to do since 1970. But he did some good things in the 24-10 loss, completing 22-of-32 passes for 204 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He did enough for Cleveland to be closer than a 14-point deficit.
Although he appears gangly at 6-foot-2 and just 200 pounds, Lewis is athletic, moves well in the pocket and has a strong arm that allows him to make all the throws.
He displayed all that in as a four-year starter at Duke, setting school records for career passing yards (10,065) and touchdowns (67). He also rushed for 621 yards and nine touchdowns, and set a Blue Devils mark by throwing 206 consecutive passes without an interception.
As a senior, Lewis led the Atlantic Coast Conference and was ranked 10th nationally in passing yards per game.
Sure, Duke’s football team would probably lose to the school’s basketball squad if they stepped onto the field, so you have to take all of this with a grain of salt. But you can’t completely ignore what Lewis did there. He thrived without any weapons.
The Bills aren’t going to the playoffs. They know – or at least they think – Manuel is their franchise quarterback going forward. At least he’s played pretty well in a small sample size of 4½ games this year. But until he returns, this will give them a chance to take an extended look at Lewis. What they will likely determine after it’s all said and done is that Lewis is more than capable to be the backup to Manuel.
That was never going to be the case with Tuel.
So Buffalo has nothing to lose by rolling the dice on Lewis.