E.J. Manuel will struggle to have the same success RG3, Luck and Wilson had in 2012.
One year ago, rookie quarterbacks took the NFL by storm; some were expected to do well, while others were pleasant surprises.
Robert Griffin III collected the most awards of any rookie passer from last year, while Andrew Luck threw for the most passing yards and Russell Wilson went furthest in the playoffs. In addition to this "big three," Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden both had their moments.
While he certainly doesn’t have an abundance of talent around him on offense, he looked pretty good in Buffalo’s most recent preseason game.
When he entered the game in relief of Kevin Kolb, Manuel was 6-for-6 and led the Bills down the field for a touchdown. You see, with Manuel, it wasn’t like he didn’t do well in college. He displayed tremendous ability as a dual-threat quarterback at Florida State, but his flaws laid in his field vision and shaky accuracy.
While you could make the comparison between Manuel, RG3 and Wilson’s playing styles, it is not likely his win-loss record will compare to theirs at the end of this year.
All three of these players are great individual talents, but RG3 and Wilson had much better supporting casts than Manuel has. Wilson had a great defense to lean on and a solid receiving corps while RG3 had one of the best running backs in the league behind him and an impressive offensive line.
Manuel’s accessories in Buffalo aren’t nearly as good as Griffin’s or Wilson’s, which will make it tough for him to put up comparable stats. Although he has a pretty good defense, there are still some questions surrounding their middle linebacker position.
Kiko Alonso has certainly shown promise, but he is still a rookie and you can’t expect him to not make mistakes right away. Their other starting MLB Nigel Bradham is coming off a respectable rookie season, but he will have big shoes to fill now that Nick Barnett is gone.
If Manuel does have one thing working for him, it’s Buffalo’s running game.
C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson proved to be one of the best one-two punches in the NFL, even with Jackson missing some games due to injury. Pair those two with Manuel's athletic ability and you've got a recipe for a defense's nightmare.
Anyway, I digress; it won't be like Manuel will have zero weapons on offense, but Stevie Johnson can’t do it by himself.
Sure, Brad Smith has shown flashes of being dependable here and there (especially in Friday’s preseason game), but he will need to be more consistent or else his role in the offense will get smaller and smaller. Buffalo did just draft two talented receivers in Marquise Goodwin and Robert Woods, but just as with Alonso, they probably can’t be relied upon heavily earlier in the season.
It’s clear the Bills are in a rebuilding phase, and that is what will hold Manuel back from putting up big numbers in his first season. Of course, stranger things have happened, and Manuel could very well prove to be an anomaly, but I wouldn’t count on it.
If he has any lack of production it won’t be because he isn’t a good player or that he’s not “NFL ready,” it will be because his team won’t be able to keep up with him throughout the season.
The Bills are a pretty young team, and I believe Manuel has a bright future, but this year will come with some struggles.