EJ Manuel’s 2016 Preseason


BACKUP Quarterback EJ Manuel has been a polarizing figure since being the first QB drafted in the 2013 draft. He was a quarterback who in my opinion was drafted too high but the Bills’ scouts believed he had the tools to be a starting quarterback one day. It didn’t take long for coaches and scouts to realize that he is not a franchise guy. Based on EJ’s performance thus far in his career, he is simply a backup QB.

But a decent one at that and Greg Roman tested EJ Manuel this preseason. In possibly his final preseason with the Bills EJ has dropped back 79 times, attempted 70 passes, completed 39 for 381 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception (In three games). That is a 53.8 completion percentage, easily the lowest in the preseason in his whole career. So why has he struggled in the NFL? Accuracy…

If you were to ask any NFL coach, would they rather have a QB with a big arm or an accurate arm the majority would choose the accurate QB? EJ isn’t one or the other, but he doesn’t make accurate throws consistently. You saw a lot of that in the Redskins game. EJ attempted 39 passes and completed 21.

With only 8 seconds left EJ wants to get the ball to tight end O’Leary to help the Bills get in better field position for a field goal. But his mechanics fail him. He fails to follow through with his trail foot which leaves the ball high and uncatchable.

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Even on the following completion, you can see him struggle with accuracy. EJ makes the correct decision on this throw to Powell but the ball location is bad. The throw is behind him and it doesn’t allow the WR to gain yards after the catch.

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There is no doubt that Roman and company tested EJ this preseason to determine if they could move on from him sooner rather than later. When it comes to the Greg Roman passing game we all know that he relies heavily on down the field throws. EJ has always struggled in that kind of passing game, so Roman tested him this preseason. Why? Maybe to see if the Bills could somehow carry on the offensive philosophy without him. EJ attempted the most 20+yd passes so far this preseason (16), completed 5 for 2 TDs and 1 INT. So he passed the test, for now…

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His greatest asset may be that he battles back. He may make a mistake, but he quickly learns and adjusts from them. Like on this play, he nails the throw this time.

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But we all know that in the NFL you typically don’t get second chances and that’s why he can’t be counted on as a starter, not in this system at least. EJ Manuel in my opinion, would fit best in a west coast system. A system that heavily relies on timing and rhythm. The kind of system that teaches QBs to read the defense and get the ball out quickly. Most of his good passes are timing passes. That’s why if you analyze EJ’s snap to attempt numbers in the pocket (2.47 secs), his are quicker than Tyrod Taylor (2.81 secs) and Cardale Jones (2.83 secs).

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His NFL talent flashes at times. On this play, he reads the coverage, hits the top of his drop and anticipates the throw to Greg Little.

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On this next play, EJ makes his most impressive throw of the preseason, again, while in rhythm. He takes the snap, keeps his eyes on the safety and then throws it to Powell where only he can catch it. Watch his drop, eyes, and footwork in the pocket. Very smooth.


It appears like Greg Roman will keep EJ as the backup this season and here is why. First, if he has time, he can work through progressions. On this play, EJ takes the snap, uses good eye discipline and waits for the route to Boykin to develop. Based on the coverage EJ knew exactly where he wanted to go with the ball.

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When he is in rhythm he is capable of making smart decisions. Roman calls a seven step drop, typically a drop that gives the receivers time to get down field. He hits the top of his drop, hitches up, but doesn’t like what he sees. So he pulls it down and gets the first down. Roman loves quarterbacks that can extend plays.

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Another reason why the Bills are comfortable with keeping EJ as a backup is because they are a run first team. That plan of attack won’t change, so Roman can minimize Manuel’s touches. The run game will set up some easy passes on play action for EJ. He has the size and ability to make those passes, especially over the middle. Play action fake, hitches up in the pocket and smoothly delivers over the middle to Annen.

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What is Roman’s favorite pass route? The deep comeback! Defenses want to stack the box to stop the run so that leaves a lot of one on one on the outside. The Bills have receivers that can get down the field in a hurry and that sets up the deep comeback route. EJ has the arm strength to make that pass regularly. Good play action fake, eye discipline to hold the safety and a strike to Powell.

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EJ Manuel as a person and leader is unquestionable.


At this point in his career EJ Manuel is a backup quarterback, especially in this system. A system that asks it’s quarterback to stand in the pocket while their receivers get down the field. So far this preseason, EJ Manuel’s completion percentage decreased the more time he spent in the pocket. When EJ had 2.5 seconds or less, his completion percentage was 60.9%. When he held the ball for 2.6 seconds or more his completion percentage was 45.8%. His style of play just doesn’t fit as a starter. But as a backup, he has all of the tools necessary to fill in for a game or two and that’s why the Bills want to keep him around this season.