With the 2013 season over, it’s already time to look ahead to 2014 for the Buffalo Bills.
Head coach Doug Marrone informed quarterback E.J. Manuel that he will remain the starter next season despite questions about the rookie’s durability and uneven development.
Manuel, the surprise first-round pick in April, missed six games this season with knee injuries. Thad Lewis took over and posted a better completion percentage, yards per pass attempt and passer rating in half as many starts. Hopefully, after being informed that the staff still intends to go with him next year, Manuel doesn’t take it for granted. The QB told ESPN:
“With the season that we’ve had, I don’t feel like I can just sit here and be comfortable. You know changes are going to be made all the time. I know for me personally, I’m going to always continue to work hard and make sure I’m ready to go. I do know I’m the leader and the quarterback right now of this team.”
It’s clear that the Bills got a genuine talent in the draft. Manuel had a few starts that electrified, and it was easy to see why the Bills fell in love. He has a big, strong arm, and despite being so big he is very mobile which gives the running game an added dimension via the read option.
Still, he’s been inconsistent. But how many rookie quarterbacks are the beacon of consistency? Perhaps guys like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III skewed the expectations for rookie signal callers after they had outstanding freshman seasons in the NFL.
Of course, the biggest concern is Manuel’s long-term health. Will his knee be an issue going forward? Will the injuries of this season get into his head and affect the way he plays the game?
From the team standpoint, they certainly hope not, but it has to be a bit of a relief knowing that a serviceable backup is waiting in the wings in Lewis. Still, the team didn’t draft Manuel in the first round (amidst a myriad of stunned questioning, I might add) to get ten-game seasons out of him.
Manuel will need to take a step forward in 2014. He’ll need to improve as a passer, improve his pre-snap decision-making, and most importantly, he’ll need to stay on the field.
The ball is in Manuel’s court. It’s time for him to step up.