Sure, at the time, many (yours truly included) blasted the selection of quarterback E.J. Manuel in the first round. The consensus was that it was a major reach — that the Bills could have gotten Manuel or someone of equal talent in the second round instead.
Manuel has proven us wrong so far, when he’s been healthy that is, and I’m here to tell you that crow doesn’t taste good.
In addition to Manuel, the Bills appear to have gotten great value out of their second-round selections as well. Linebacker Kiko Alonso has gotten a ton of well-deserved attention. He’s been a stud for the defense, flying around and making plays all over the field.
But it’s easy to forget that the Bills’ other second-round pick had a pretty good start himself. Robert Woods looked as though he was the complimentary receiver to Stevie Johnson that the Bills had been searching for the last few years.
He and Manuel connected for not only the first touchdown of the Bills season, but the first in their respective careers. His work during the first month of the year got him some consideration among coaches for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month (Alonso took the defensive honors).
Since Manuel has gone down, though, it’s been a totally different story. Consider the numbers with their starting quarterback in the lineup:
Five games, 37 targets, 16 receptions, 265 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Doesn’t seem like much, but his targets went up every week for the first five weeks and he had a season-high of 80 yards in the Week 4 win over the Baltimore Ravens.
Now consider the difference since backup Thad Lewis has entered the fray:
Three games, 14 targets, six receptions, 40 yards and zero touchdowns. Straight off the cliff.
It’s clear that it’s not a drop in playing time. Watching the games, you can see him out there, but there just isn’t a rapport between he and Lewis. Part of it has been the Bills’ inability to keep Lewis upright. He has found his favorite targets (Johnson and tight end Scott Chandler) and stuck with them.
ESPN also had an interesting stat: tracking whether a receiver runs a pass route on any given play, through Week 5, Woods was targeted on 22.7 percent of plays where he ran a route. Since then? He’s been targeted 14.1 percent of the time.
If the Bills are going to succeed, they have to get Woods involved. It’ll be difficult enough against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, especially with that vicious pass rush, so Lewis will need to use all his weapons – Woods included.