Wednesday, September 25, 2013
QB Watch: Bills' EJ Manuel
By Mike Rodak
A weekly analysis of the Bills' quarterback play.
Rewind: It was a game to forget for rookie EJ Manuel. He went 19-for-42 passing, a 45.2 completion percentage that was second-lowest in the NFL last week, behind Michael Vick's 13-for-30 showing. Manuel completed just 3 of 12 throws on third down. Some of his passes landed well out of bounds, causing coach Doug Marrone to say Monday: "I’ve always realized my entire life [that] nobody has ever been able to beat the sideline. ... We want to make sure we’re giving our players an opportunity to make those plays." Manuel also said Monday that he needs to work on keeping his throws in-bounds.
Fast-forward: The Jets' defense was installed by Rex Ryan, the former defensive coordinator of the Ravens, who have retained much of his defensive philosophy. The Ravens aren't quite what they used to be -- they have allowed more passing yards (296 per game) than the Bills -- but their calling card is still their pressure and aggressiveness. They have a strong pass rush, headlined by defensive ends Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. They will be the Bills' top concern in their week of preparation.
Blitz pickup: Manuel was just 1-for-10 when the Jets rushed five or more last weekend, and 1-for-8 when a defensive back rushed. There is likely some concern on the Bills' part that teams will use more blitzing going forward. Manuel was sacked eight times by the Jets, the most of any team in Week 3, and was hit 16 times. So as much as Manuel will look to improve, his offensive line needs to get better, too.
Prediction: It's tough to see Manuel putting up big numbers against this Ravens defense. The Bills' best bet could be to get behind the Ravens' pass rush with dump-offs and screen passes. It's a dink-and-dunk style, but the Bills could opt for it after last week's breakdowns in pass protection. It's not what Buffalo wants to do offensively, but keeping Manuel's passes short and manageable might help Sunday.