EJ Manuel Will Be Biggest Question Mark in Buffalo Bills' New-Look Offense

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent IApril 27, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 25:  E.J. Manuel of the Florida State Seminoles holds up a jersey on stage after he was picked #16 overall by the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 25, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The biggest question facing the Buffalo Bills' offense in 2013 is whether EJ Manuel can develop into a dependable NFL starting quarterback.

Kevin Kolb is in town, but he looks to be set up for a backup quarterback role.

Meanwhile, C.J. Spiller is a stud in Buffalo's backfield, rushing for over 1,200 yards and six touchdowns while averaging six yards per carry a season ago. Plus, the Bills have shored up their wide receiving corps with the addition of USC's Robert Woods and Texas' Marquise Goodwin in Rounds 2 and 3 of the 2013 NFL draft.

It goes without saying that the man responsible for getting those athletes the ball next season will be under the most scrutiny, especially when it's a player who wasn't considered to be a first-round talent prior to the draft, according to analysts and experts like Skip Bayless and Matt Miller.

Buffalo used the No. 16 overall pick to make Manuel the first and only quarterback taken in the first round in 2013. So, how will he perform under center for Buffalo, assuming he's the guy first-year head coach Doug Marrone calls upon to lead the Bills' new-look offense next fall?

That remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: Manuel, like every other signal-caller in the 2013 draft class, will have to prove he's worth a shot, and that he can successfully direct an NFL offense.

From a purely physical standpoint, there's no reason not to love what Manuel brings to the equation, and certainly no reason not to believe he'll deliver for Buffalo. At 6'5", 240 pounds, he boasts prototypical size and weight and also possesses solid mobility inside the pocket.

As far as his mechanics are concerned, accuracy is a bit of an issue as he struggles to complete passes outside the numbers and deep downfield on occasion. At the same time, however, Manuel showed flashes of brilliance every now and then at Florida State, likely leading Marrone and company to believe he can excel once he becomes more consistent in that area.

He has a big arm, threw for nearly 3,400 yards last season with the Seminoles and can drive the ball deep downfield similar to Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. 

Perhaps the bigger issue for Manuel will be inside his head, though; specifically his decision-making.

There's no doubt that he's a tough-minded leader on the football field, but how quickly can he run through his progressions, and how often will he make the wrong read?

Growing pains are normal for rookie quarterbacks in the NFL, but for a first-round selection like Manuel, the pressure to live up to the unfair standards created by Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will surely intensify those growing pains.

Like Spiller, we know what Steve Johnson and Scott Chandler are capable of once they get the ball in their hands, but will Manuel get it to them at the right spot at the right time? The same goes for Woods and Goodwin; can Manuel incorporate them into the mix?

Buffalo's defense will obvious play a key role in the team's success in 2013, but a turnaround for the Bills' 25th-ranked passing attack is every bit as vital. For now, Manuel looks to be the new maestro of that attack, making him the biggest question mark for Buffalo heading into next season.


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