Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel has gotten his career off to a good start, leading the Bills to a 1-1 record that includes a near upset of the New England Patriots and a last second win over the Carolina Panthers. One of the most impressive things about Manuel thus far is his decision making and ability to protect the ball, as he has completed 68.2% of his passes and thrown just 1 interception.
One of the biggest reasons for Manuel’s efficiency is the fact the Bills have only allowed one sack this season. The play of the offensive line, Manuel’s mobility and the play calling all have factored into this. However, Manuel has not faced a defense as good as the New York Jets yet, and this will be his biggest challenge to date.
The Jets’ front seven has been excellent to start the season, and the secondary began to round into form in the Jets’ Week 2 loss to the Patriots. The Jets rank 6th in the NFL in passing yards allowed and 4th in yards per attempt. Last week the Jets held Tom Brady to 185 yards on 48.7 % passing, one of the worst statistical games of his career. In Week 1 they sacked Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman 3 times and intercepted him once.
Rex Ryan loves to get creative with his schemes, personnel packages and blitz designs, and he is sure to give Manuel several looks he’s never seen before. The Jets will likely use overloads and DB blitzes to surprise the rookie and take away his speed advantage. Defensive ends Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson are both very athletic and very good pass rushers, and the Bills’ offensive line will struggle to contain them.
The Jets may also use Demario Davis as a spy on Manuel, taking away the run and forcing him to stay in the pocket. With Antonio Cromartie blanketing Steve Johnson, Manuel will have to progress through his reads, which the Jets won’t give him time to do. The Jets plan to force Manuel into rushed decisions or squeezing throws into tight windows, which obviously works in their favor.
Obviously, the Bills are fully aware that the Jets plan on coming after the rookie hard, and they are surely working on ways to slow the rush and get the ball out of Manuel’s hand quickly. However, the Jets’ defensive line is far more talented than the Bills’ offensive line, and that alone will cause major problems for Buffalo.
The Jets are going to try to win this game by forcing the rookie into making mistakes and turning the ball over. Sunday’s game will be a learning experience for Manuel, but don’t be surprised if he throws an interception or two in the process. The Jets need takeaways to win the game, and they are going to do everything in their power to make the rookie give up the ball.