PITTSFORD — As the Bills’ season-opening exhibition game wound down last Thursday night at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the cynical media observation was: “Look out ... quarterback controversy.”
That sarcastic observation came from a press assemblage that had seen the Bills lose, 7-6, to the Redskins in a fantastically boring preseason game, as starter Ryan Fitzpatrick looked lousy and Vince Young, ultimately the seeming backup, seeming played fairly soundly.
The numbers didn’t say so, of course.
Fitzpatrick was 6-of-14 passing for 61 yards, was sacked once, threw no TD passes or interceptions, and had a QB rating of 56.0.
Young, the former Titans first-round draft choice, was 5-of-12 for 50 yards while being sacked three times with no TDs or picks.
But he had one gaudy stat.
Under pressure on several dropbacks, he ran five ties for 37 yards, the most rushing yards for Buffalo and second in the game of the 12 players who had a carry.
Fitzpatrick’s eight misses included four overthrows, two blocks at the line of scrimmage and a throw behind the receiver.
Young had three balls overthrown, two drops and two behind receivers.
But he was also working with Buffalo’s second and third units.
Afterward, coach Chan Gailey made it clear that while Fitzpatrick would open Friday’s game against the Vikings in Minneapolis, Young would be the second QB in and Tyler Thigpen (3-of-8 for 38 yards and an interception with a 13.5 passer rating against the Redskins) would work the fourth quarter.
AND IF there was a question, Gailey reiterated his position after Monday’s practice at St. John Fisher, the second-to-last session at the Bills’ training camp home.
“That’s the best he’s done since he’s been here,” said Gailey of Young’s performance in 7-on-7 (no guards or tackles or defensive linemen) and the 2-minute drill. “I think today was the best day since he’s been here.
“You have to ask him (about his comfort with the offense) but we’re trying to do everything (in the playbook) with him. We’re not holding anything back. He has a better grasp of it than he did at any time in OTAs (Organized Team Activities) and mini-camp and I think he’s feeling a lot more comfortable.”
OF YOUNG’S running success against Washington, Gailey added, “ It did not show me anything because I already knew it ,so it is not like it was a
surprise. I think there were a couple of times where he wasn’t sure about where to throw it so he tucked it.
“Sometimes the protection broke down and he had to run it so if he just keeps getting more comfortable and then he’ll pick and choose his times to run it I think. He’s made progress. He’s made something happen almost every time he’s run it so that’s good.”
FROM YOUNG’S perspective, he pointed out, “I’m used to working with (the second and third units). I’m just looking to get better every time I go out there. I’m not worried about who’s No. 2 or No. 3 quarterback, my goal is to be the best I can be.
“It’ll be great to work with the (No. 2 offense on Friday night), but whether I’m the backup or No. 3 doesn’t matter as long as I play my best.
At 6-foot-5, 232 pounds, the 29-year-old Young and former University of Texas star, remains a remarkable athlete.
“I want to take advantage of my opportunity,” said Young, who had a long pass completion, then a touchdown connection with wide receiver Ruvell Martin during Monday’s 2-minute drill. “It’s in my hands and my only concern is to play as well as I can.”
Maybe so, but Bills’ fans won’t be happy until, at very least, Young is No. 2 on the depth chart.
And his next chance to prove it comes Friday night in Minnesota.
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)