EJ Manuel Shines in Win over Jets, a Sign of Things to Come

Kristopher KnoxFeatured ColumnistNovember 18, 2013

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 17:  EJ Manuel #3 of the Buffalo Bills looks to pass against the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 17, 2013 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills made EJ Manuel the only quarterback taken in the first round of last April’s draft because the team believed he had the potential to be the future of the franchise.

If Manuel’s performance Sunday is any indication of what is to come, the future for Buffalo looks bright.

The former Florida State star had his best game as a pro Sunday against the New York Jets.

Against New York’s eighth-ranked defense (325.2 yards per game allowed), Manuel completed 20 of 28 pass attempts for 245 yards and two touchdowns.

The Bills defense, which forced four turnovers on the afternoon, deserves a lot of credit for shutting down rookie quarterback Geno Smith and the rest of the Jets offense. However, Manuel made timely throws and big plays that helped turn a winnable contest into a 37-14 rout.

The last time these two teams faced off, it was Smith’s Jets that got the better of Manuel.

In Week 3, Manuel completed 19 of 42 pass attempts for 243 yards and a touchdown, but Smith responded with 331 yards and two scores, including the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

This time around, Manuel made sure that his team would come out on top.

Despite missing top receivers Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods, Manuel consistently found holes in the Jets' usually formidable secondary. He was decisive with his reads and regularly flashed the type of pocket presence and mobility that teams look for in a franchise quarterback.

He also presented veteran-like poise and confidence, which could be a sign that the rookie has given the Bills an honest-to-goodness NFL-caliber quarterback. Even better, he showcased the strong arm that a passer needs to succeed in a bad-weather city like Buffalo.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Manuel’s performance is that the rookie showed that he can deliver in big games when needed.

While Sunday’s game might not have seemed like a critical mid-season contest, the reality is that it was easily the biggest game of Manuel’s young career.

At 4-7, Buffalo is still technically alive in the AFC Wild Card race and just defeated the front-runners for the sixth and final playoff spot.

If Manuel can stay healthy, the Bills have a legitimate chance to make a late-season push for the postseason.

If the team can add a few key pieces and Manuel can continue to progress as a quarterback, Buffalo could be a perennial contender in the very near future.