EJ Manuel Proves He Must Be Buffalo Bills Week 1 Starter During Preseason Debut
In the end, Manuel proved that he must be the Bills' Week 1 starter after a very strong preseason debut.
Manuel was strong, completing 16-of-21 passes for 107 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He also ran the ball three times for 28 yards, including a 24-yard scamper that brought those in attendance at Lucas Oil Stadium to their feet.
Less than four months removed from being labeled as the biggest reach of the draft, Manuel's performance made it difficult to argue against his being Buffalo's starting quarterback in year one.
Why don't we jump to conclusions: EJ Manuel will start Week 1 vs the Patriots— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) August 11, 2013
We'll jump to that conclusion and feel just fine about it.
Manuel was the only quarterback to come off of the board during the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, thus elevating the level of expectations and the burden of pressure placed upon him. This comes after a successful career with the Florida State Seminoles, where he was 25-6 with four bowl game victories.
Manuel's preseason debut provided a stage for each of his dynamic skills to be placed on full display.
To be clear, this isn't a prediction about who will win Rookie of the Year, nor will it serve as an argument that Buffalo is headed for big things. Instead, our argument lies in the basics of the provided statement, as Manuel deserves to be the Bills' starter this season.
His preseason debut showed that Manuel has the ability to warrant the hype.
During his preseason debut, Manuel played a full half of football, throwing the ball at an efficient rate and using his legs to pick up yardage. In the process, Manuel affirmed what the knowledgeable evaluators have noticed.
Manuel is a pocket passer with the uncanny ability to make something out of nothing when a play breaks down.
Contrary to what some may believe, that's the type of playing style that now runs the NFL. While players such as Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson may be lethal runners, their strength comes from the fact that they prefer to drop back and throw.
Who should be the Buffalo Bills' starting quarterback for Week 1?
Their being able to run is just an added benefit, even if they do attempt more scrambles than the average quarterback.
What Manuel brings to the table is a player who can work the short-to-intermediate game as a passer and move the chains with his legs. Kevin Kolb may have a more powerful arm, and Jeff Tuel certainly turned heads against Indianapolis, but this isn't just about upside.
Manuel can be the game changer for Buffalo as soon as day one.
The Bills are a team with the tools necessary to run a high-octane offense, as C.J. Spiller possesses blazing speed out of the backfield and Steve Johnson is a star receiver. Joining that duo is a crop of upside-ridden receivers with rookies Marquise Goodwin, Da'Rick Rogers and Robert Woods.
Speed is omnipresent, big-play ability is undeniable and the Bills need a quarterback to bring it all together. Manuel has every tool to be that player.
The Bills currently have three quarterbacks on their main roster with Kolb and rookies Manuel and Tuel. A case could be made that every one of those players is unproven, including Kolb, 28.
For that reason, we can't help but ask—what competition is Manuel truly facing?
Kolb was once viewed as a superstar waiting to break out, dominating in limited opportunities with the Philadelphia Eagles. Over the past three seasons, however, Kolb has played in 22 games, battling injuries and losing his starting job on more than one occasion.
He hasn't completed more than 60.0 percent of his passes since 2010 and has thrown 24 touchdowns to 18 interceptions in that time.
According to Mark Gaughan of The Buffalo News, Kolb recently injured himself by slipping on a a rubber mat. Kolb appears to be in good health, but was listed as an "emergency quarterback" for Buffalo's preseason debut.
This puts his status in doubt, which is enough to open the door for Manuel to take the reins and become the full-time starter.
With Buffalo's offense filled with young talent and its defense hoping to redeem itself, taking a chance on something new is the most rational option. While Kolb has underwhelmed, Manuel is built in the same mold as a quarterback who unexpectedly thrived last season—Russell Wilson.
With Buffalo's postseason odds remaining the same with Kolb and Manuel, building for the future with a dual-threat quarterback who was selected with a first-round draft choice appears to be the most logical step.
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