Cardale Jones could be odd man out in Bills' quarterback race

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Cardale Jones, who hoisted a national championship trophy and stood atop the college football world while at Ohio State two years ago, could be the odd man out in a four-way race among Buffalo Bills quarterbacks this summer. The four hopefuls are competing for what will likely only be three roster spots.

Jones served as the Bills' third quarterback last season after being selected in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. He did not see action until the regular-season finale, when he replaced EJ Manuel in the fourth quarter of a game where starter Tyrod Taylor was deactivated.

Jones' reps have been limited in practices this spring, which foreshadows him landing on the roster bubble by the start of training camp next month.

Offseason veteran signing T.J. Yates has typically led the second-team offense in organized team activities and minicamp. Yates, who spent three seasons (2011-13) being coached by current Bills offensive coordinator Rick Dennison with the Houston Texans, appears to have secured the inside track to Buffalo's top backup job behind Taylor. In a two-minute drill Wednesday, Yates capped a 14-play drive with a short touchdown pass to tight end Nick O'Leary, showing accuracy on short timing routes to advance the ball down the field.

Leading the third-team offense in Wednesday's two-minute drill was fifth-round rookie Nathan Peterman. The Pittsburgh product was only given about a minute on the clock to run the drill, but nonetheless led his group down the field for a field goal attempt. As a developmental prospect and draft selection made by the current Bills' front office, Peterman has a strong chance of remaining on the 53-man roster as a third quarterback.

Then there was Jones. He watched from the sidelines Wednesday as Taylor (first team), Yates (second team) and Peterman (third team) all took their turns in the two-minute drill. Taylor then led the starters for a second round of the drill before Jones got his chance with the second-team offense.

The drive ended quickly. On the first play from scrimmage, Jones attempted a short pass over the middle that was intercepted by first-year linebacker Jacob Lindsey, ending the practice.

"You kind of sit around all day, try to go in there. You wait on your opportunity all day," Jones said after practice, later clarifying he meant he sat around because of the length of Yates' and Peterman's drives. "Your number is called, and you kind of didn't take advantage of it.

"I just checked it down to the running back a little too high. Just basically trying to get [the pass] over the D-line. I didn't follow through on the throw all the way and it sailed over his head and right into the linebacker's hands."

At this point, it is difficult to envision Jones leapfrogging Yates for the No. 2 job, or being kept on the roster over a more recent draft pick like Peterman. Bills coach Sean McDermott also has little connection to Jones, who was drafted by former general manager Doug Whaley last year.

Jones was not the only Bills QB to struggle on Wednesday. Taylor also failed in both of his attempts at the two-minute drill, the first of which began with 44 seconds on the clock and was halted by a dropped ball from second-round rookie Zay Jones. His second attempt ended on a fourth-down incompletion to O'Leary.

Taylor's accuracy has been inconsistent in two minicamp practices this week. He was intercepted by first-round rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White during Tuesday's practice and suffered two near interceptions on other throws. Safety Jordan Poyer jumped a pass at the goal line during a red zone drill Wednesday, picking Taylor off before the ball could reach its intended target, tight end Charles Clay.