FOXBOROUGH — No matter who gets the snaps at quarterback for the Bills on Sunday – EJ Manuel or Jeff Tuel – the Patriots defense will have to be ready for a rookie who can run.
Just don’t count Tommy Kelly among those viewing Manuel as the next Michael Vick.
“He runs a little bit, but he tries to stay in that pocket and get that ball out,” said Kelly, listed on the Patriots’ depth chart as a starting defensive tackle. “He’ll run when necessary, but to say he’s like Michael Vick? No. But he’ll run, he’s definitely a threat, though.”
Manuel was the team’s first-round draft pick out of Florida State; Tuel is an undrafted rookie from Washington State. Tuel got more playing time during the preseason while Manuel has dealt with a knee injury – Kevin Kolb has been placed on injured reserve – but the Bills have named Manuel as the starter for Sunday’s opener in Buffalo.
Whoever is under center, defensive end Rob Ninkovich said, the defensive strategy is pretty similar.
“It comes down to the D-line having good pass rush lanes, and everyone doing their job keeping the guy in the pocket,” Ninkovich said. “Quarterbacks that can run, you got to keep them in the pocket, you want to let them throw the ball down the field, and not give them big rush lanes opening up so they can just step up and run for 10, 15 yards at a time.”