The Buffalo Bills have been looking for a steady franchise quarterback since the day Jim Kelly hung up his cleats. Several seasons ago, Buffalo foolishly handed millions of dollars over to Ryan Fitzpatrick and have since moved on. In place is a new coaching staff and supporting cast of quarterbacks. Can rookie E.J. Manuel be the answer to the long standing question of acquiring a franchise signal caller?
Buffalo made the Florida State product the only quarterback selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Pundits suggested at the time that the Bills might have reached for Manuel at the number 16 selection overall, but he was obviously the player they coveted.
The Bills had already signed free agent quarterback Kevin Kolb, but let’s be serious for a minute, Kolb is not the answer to any question at quarterback. Manuel gets the start this afternoon against the Indianapolis Colts because, wait for it here….Kevin Kolb is injured. Kolb tripped on a mat during practice and injured his knee.
Manuel is an intriguing prospect. He possess a unique combination of speed, size and arm strength. Recent success of rookie quarterbacks now adds pressure for the Bills and to Manuel. Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton broke rookie records two seasons ago but Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson really raised the bar last season.
It’s true that the learning curve for some quarterbacks that go from the college ranks to the NFL has shrunk. More college programs are playing pro style offenses and with more NFL teams adopting the read-option style of play, these athletic, mobile quarterbacks are adapting into the offensive scheme quicker.
Some have speculated as to whether or not the Bills should start Manuel week one or let him sit as the San Francisco 49ers handled Colin Kaepernick. The Niners had a tremendous defense and a much better quarterback in Alex Smith than the Bills have in Kevin Kolb. Buffalo doesn’t have that luxury.
When you select a player in the first round, you expect him to step in and make an impact the first season. There is no pressure immediately placed on rookie head coach Doug Marrone. Let’s be honest here, if Kolb can’t navigate around the training camp practice field without suffering an injury after tripping, there is a very good chance that Manuel will be in the starting lineup anyway at some point. Put Manuel in from week one and let him learn from his mistakes.
Bills fans will have to be patient with Manuel. At Florida State, he had the tendency to be inconsistent throwing the football at times but made up for those issues with his athleticism. It remains to be seen if he can do the same in Buffalo.
Manuel will start on a team which already has some offensive weapons. RB C.J. Spiller is prepared to become a superstar. WR Steve Johnson has already demonstrated his production despite his tendency for strange behavior. The Bills added USC WR Robert Woods and Texas receiver Marquise Goodwin to the mix.
The Washington Redskins, Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks all rolled with rookie quarterbacks last season and that equation translated into success on the field with all three teams reaching post season play. Bills fans are hoping for the same sort of success this year.
The football world will get it’s first look at Manuel in game conditions. Is he the answer at quarterback? We’ll get some answers today.