In Week 3 of the 2013 NFL season rookie QBs E.J. Manuel and Geno Smith faced off for the first time when the New York Jets hosted the Buffalo Bills. The Jets took the game 27-20 but the difference in the QBs’ performances were far different than the margin on the scoreboard. Smith was 16-of-29 for 331 yards and two touchdowns in what was his best performance of the whole season. Manuel went 19-of-42 for 143 yards and a TD, and he was sacked eight times.
Sunday’s match-up told a different story. Smith had one of his worst games yet going 8-of-23 for 103 yards with three interceptions. He also lost a fumble deep in Buffalo territory and was sacked four times. On the other side Manuel was 20-of-28 for 245 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t turn the ball over and was sacked only once.
Manuel and Smith’s respective performances may be telling for one reason — the weather played a factor. One of the main reasons that the Bills picked Manuel and not Smith in the first round of this year’s draft was because of how well Manuel played in the rain in Buffalo when he had his try out there. Smith was a guy who struggled in the elements in college. There was no rain or snow but there was a whole lot of wind. Manuel was making all of the throws, and Smith couldn’t make any of them.
If you were asked two weeks ago to rank which young AFC East QBs could take their teams the farthest Manuel would have probably ranked third behind Smith and Ryan Tannehill. Smith and Tannehill have struggled in the elements while Manuel passed his first test. Obviously in the AFC East you need to show that you can win when the weather gets rough late in the season.
Manuel will get another test in a month when he faces off against Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins in Buffalo on the weekend before Christmas. These are the match-ups to watch to consider which AFC East QB is ready to take their teams to the next level. For now Manuel is 1-for-1.