Both E.J. Manuel and Geno Smith started out their seasons well. The expectations for both were fairly low, and both mildly exceeded them. They certainly are not Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin 2.0, but both were good and encouraged their respective fan bases. The question is who did better? To answer that we will look at their total yards (passing and rushing), yards per play, touchdowns, and turnovers.
Geno Smith: 303 yards, 6.9 yards per play, 1 TD, 2 turnovers.
E.J. Manuel: 173 yards, 5.7 yards per play, 2 TDs, 0 turnovers.
One thing is clear, Smith took more chances and risks. He got more yards but also had more turnovers. The fact that he had over 100 yards more and over a yard better per play is substantial, but the two turnovers are bad. One was especially bad, as he fumbled inside the New York Jets 10-yard line, leading to an easy score for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Manuel’s ability to avoid turnovers was both key to the Buffalo Bills‘ success and a great sign of things to come. Rookies often turn the ball over too much, especially running quarterbacks. Truth be told, Manuel did not run much, with only three carries. In fact, Smith ran over twice as often, though none of his runs seemed designed, so that was more a byproduct of the Bucs’ constant blitzes than by design. Even though Manuel had a relative low yards per play for a quarterback he gets major bonus points for not turning it over.
Really, both quarterbacks played well and it is hard to pick. Here I’ll give the edge to Geno Smith as he had to throw much more and ran more, so I forgive the turnovers. Also, his run game was atrocious, meaning the Bucs never needed eight in the box. For Manuel, C.J. Spiller was bad, but had that to be respected and Fred Jackson made some great plays. Regardless of who was better today, both seem to be headed in the right direction.