When the Buffalo Bills spent a first-round pick on E.J. Manuel this past April, their hope was that the rookie quarterback would take the offense to new heights. So far, the Bills have gotten exactly what they were looking for.
The first two weeks of the current campaign have been exciting for Manuel, the only quarterback taken in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He’s completed 68.7 percent of his passes for 455 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. While his stat sheet has been fairly impressive, the rookie has had some trouble with the finer points of the position.
Manuel has struggled to take chances with his passes, often settling with short passes instead of taking chances downfield. He’s also thrown a couple of inadvertent passes, including his one interception toss to Luke Kuechly and another pick that was nullified by a penalty that nearly cost the Bills a win. Stumbles, however, are expected from rookies.
Above all, Manuel’s leadership has made the big difference for the Bills.
Whenever Buffalo has needed a big play, Manuel has answered the call. He responded in Week 2 with an impressive 80-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson. The Florida State product was visibly emotional after the play, proving just how much making an impact for the Bills means to him.
Even though they lost in Week 1, Manuel consistently made plays and had them in position to win in the fourth quarter.
It’s still early, but Manuel is clearly making a positive impact for the Bills. If he continues to trend in this upward direction, he could soon develop into the franchise quarterback Buffalo envisioned when they drafted him.
For the first time since Doug Flutie was under center, the Bills have a quality quarterback at the helm. Assuming he stays healthy, Manuel might just be the savior for New York’s forgotten team.