COMMENTARY | Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel generated a ton of buzz over his first two NFL games as he threw for a total of 446 yards, tossed three touchdowns and gave the Buffalo Bills a chance to win both games.
In his debut, Manuel had an impressive quarterback rating of 105.5 and nearly stole a win from the New England Patriots. Last week he followed that up with a 89.3 rating and earned his first win thanks to a gutsy effort in the fourth quarter.
Heading into the game against the New York Jets, Manuel ranked fourth in the NFL in completion percentage (68.2%).
The rookie learned a tough lesson this afternoon when he only completed 19 of his 41 passes and finished the game with an averaged 73.5 rating.
Manuel struggled in large part due to the fact he was sacked eight times in the game and did not have a third down conversion with a pass until the fourth quarter. With the lack of any time in the pocket he was forced to making some bad passes and his receivers struggled getting open before Manuel was forced to throw the ball.
As a point of comparison, Manuel was only sacked once in his first two games.
There shouldn't be any reason for Bills fans to panic because this was just a case of a divisional rival doing their research and taking away Manuel's ability to rip the ball down the field or run through his progressions due to their constant pressure.
When you throw Manuel's hesitancy to tuck the ball and run it's clear the New York Jets formed a solid game plan for neutralizing the impressive rookie by taking away his time to stand in the pocket and pick apart their defense.
The next step in the evolution of Manuel as pro quarterback is to use his elusive speed to keep opposing defenses honest. Manuel had the second fastest 40-yard dash of any quarterback during the NFL combine back in February.
On top of that, Manuel had at least 100 rushing attempts in his final two seasons at Florida State and he ran for an impressive 310 yards last season.
Despite his impressive speed, Manuel has been hesitant to leave the pocket over his first three games as he only has 13 rushing attempts so far. Once Manuel feels confident that his left knee is fully recovered after undergoing minor surgery in August it's likely you'll see him tuck the ball and run more often.
Fans of the Buffalo Bills don't need to worry about spraining an ankle jumping off the EJ Manual bandwagon. Instead, they should look forward to how he continued to adapt to pro defenses and grows as a player.
Plus, when CJ Spiller decides to show up and return to the form that saw him rush for 1,244 yards last season that will help keep opposing defenses honest as well.
Sure, it's a bitter pill to swallow to see fellow rookie quarterback Geno Smith have his best game as a pro with 331 passing yards and two touchdowns, but it's just one game.
And, if the first three games are any indication, the rookie with the better long-term future in the NFL is Manuel.
Ryan McNeill has followed the Buffalo Bills since the team broke his heart after losing four consecutive Super Bowls. Yeah, he's kind of a glutton for punishment. You can follow him on Twitter by clicking here.
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