EJ Manuel was heralded by many as a “project” quarterback coming out of Florida State. NFL analysts seemed to be in agreement that although Manuel possessed all the physical tools (and then some) to be a successful QB, he was still too raw to be an effective immediate starter.
But how raw is raw, really? In Manuel’s case, it might not be a fair assessment to write him off as a wholly unfinished product. For one thing, he has plenty of experience playing the quarterback position at a very competitive level, and doing so effectively. As a starter at Florida State, Manuel had an overall record of 25-6. He consistently showed the ability to escape pressure and pick up extra yards and proved to be an accurate passer on long, intermediate and short throws alike.
The only legitimate knock on Manuel’s game coming out of college was his decision making. Analysts criticized his “slow eyes,” and occasional indecisiveness in the pocket. Thankfully, these are highly coachable problems, and they are areas in which Manuel has already shown improvement. Buffalo Bills new head coach Doug Marrone spoke Wednesday on Manuel’s continued improvement throughout training camp, saying, “If you saw him in college, and then you see what he’s doing now, between EJ and Nathaniel [Hackett] they’ve really done a good job. He’s really coming along nicely.”
Less than a week into training camp, it’s an encouraging sign that Manuel is already showcasing better decision making with the football. In fact, such rapid improvement calls into question just how un-developed Manuel was to begin with. It’s possible that his apparent poor decision making in college simply stemmed from an offensive system that failed to play to his strengths or coaches who failed to recognize or address those mistakes. After all, he was winning games, and why mess with success?
Regardless, the perceived holes in Manuel’s game are being plugged up, and quickly. If he continues to improve at such a rapid pace, it won’t be long before he wins the respect of his teammates, the approval of his coaches, and the admiration of a win-starved fan base.