The New England Patriots knew coming into Week 1 that they would be facing a rookie QB, they just did not know which one. With Buffalo Bills QB Kevin Kolb dealing with a potentially career threatening concussion, the Bills had no choice to name one of their rookies the starter for the opener. Up until now it was thought that undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel would be the guy opposite the improved New England defense, but as we found out today, E.J. Manuel, who was the 16th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, will get the nod. Manuel had minor knee surgery midway through preseason and was thought to be back week two or three. But after missing the final two preseason games, he came back to practice and has looked good enough for the Bills to start him Week 1.
The Patriots’ defense will now have more of a challenge on their hands with Manuel over Tuel. Though Manuel is still a rookie, he is the style of QB that has given the Patriots a bit of trouble in recent history. Manuel is a big guy with a good arm, but he has the ability to use his legs to move the chains if he needs to. The Patriots struggled with two guys similar to him last year in Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. Now both Kaepernick and Wilson have proven that they are exceptions when it comes to young QBs, and they both have a much better team around them. But if the Patriots struggle to get pressure and keep Manuel in the pocket, he could hurt them with his legs.
The Patriots should still be heavy favorites in this game and have enough talent on defense to keep Manuel from running wild on them. This is just something a little more to prepare for than if they were going to face Tuel. Manuel seems to have all the tools to be a good QB in this league, but the Patriots are a tough matchup for his first NFL game. Come Sunday, everyone will find out how Manuel handles the pressure of playing an NFL powerhouse.