Wednesday, October 2, 2013
QB Watch: Bills' EJ Manuel
By Mike Rodak
A weekly analysis of the Bills' quarterback play.
Rewind: EJ Manuel's 22 pass attempts against Baltimore were the fewest of the season for the Bills and the fewest of any team in Week 4, as the Bills emphasized their running game (55 carries). However, Manuel's 45.5 completion percentage was the worst of any quarterback in Week 4, while his two interceptions (one on a pass that Stevie Johnson should have caught) were a season high. Manuel posted a 9.8 QBR, the seventh time a quarterback has posted a single-digit QBR in the NFL this season. On the positive end, Manuel's 7.59 yards per attempt were 11th-best in the league in Week 4, and his 42-yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods was a glimpse of what the Bills want to see consistently from Manuel.
Fast-forward: The Browns have a middle-of-the-pack pass defense that ranks 15th in opposing completion percentage (60.6 percent) and 16th in QBR (50.8). They also have one of the NFL's better cornerbacks in Joe Haden, who will take away Manuel's top option on some plays. They also boast a strong pass rush, sacking opposing quarterbacks on 9 percent of plays, 11th-best in the NFL.
Short week: Two weeks ago, Manuel faced his first road test as a professional quarterback. On Thursday, he'll be back on the road following a short week of preparation. Bills coaches have been preparing for Cleveland since the days prior to the Baltimore game, but it's not clear whether Manuel also kept an eye toward this week. If he did not, perhaps the Bills will keep their game plan simple, with just one day of practice to get things right.
Prediction: After he posted completion percentages of nearly 70 percent in his first two games, Manuel's statistics have dropped off considerably the past two weeks, down to 45 percent in each of his past two games. Will that trend continue? The biggest factor in determining that is the health of the Bills' running backs. Both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are injured, and even though they are expected to play Thursday, the Bills could lean more heavily on their passing game. Manuel's chances to shine could be greater.