Orchard Park, NY (WGR 550) -- Nothing outwardly gets EJ Manuel down. The second year quarterback did not have a good preseason, but you would never know it by speaking with him. Even after the worst game, he’ll stand at the podium and say it was mostly positive.
Manuel and the Bills open the season in Chicago which won’t be an easy task. Fans and media have ripped into Manuel throughout the preseason, but it’s something he’s going to dwell on, “We’re just focusing with the task at hand, understanding we play Chicago this week, that’s the main focus for myself and the main focus for our team, so I’m just keeping that the first priority.”
Many feel that if Manuel continues his erratic play, he won’t remain the starter through the whole season. He said, “It’s always pressure, it’s the NFL and our team, we want to do great, we have weapons, we have a bunch of talent so, we’re just making sure we’re doing what we need to do offensively.”
Manuel says it doesn’t pay to listen or worry about the past. He feels that if Chicago goes well, the play of the team will do the talking, “Being able to show that on Sunday is huge. Coming out there in a regular season game, it’s a huge game, Chicago has a great defense so that’s why I say I want to keep my focus on Chicago cause that’s the most important thing to me. I can’t control what’s happened in the past, you have to move and look forward.”
Much of the criticism thrown at Manuel is he checks down too much. He told the Chicago media on Wednesday, “You don’t have to force a ball in there, being that we have a progression-type offense that a check down isn’t bad.”
With Doug Marrone and the Bills not game planning in the preseason, Manuel used the extra time to get a two week jump and his preparations for the Bears.
Kyle Orton hasn’t been around the Bills long, but having been in the league for so many years, Manuel says he’s helping a lot, “In there in the film room with Jeff and I, he’s offered some of his veteran experience, some of the things he’s done and some of the things he’s done since he’s been in the league, so he’s been a huge help for me. Some of the things that he sees on film he’s passed that down to me, so he’s been a huge help.”
If the Bills walk into Chicago and upset the Bears all of the negatives in preseason will be forgotten. Manuel thinks it’s a good first test, “This is a huge opportunity, it’s going to be loud, it’s the season opener, they have a great team and I think we have a great team too, so we have to come out and play.”
When they say that they didn’t game plan for the preseason, what does that all mean? After all they do run plays from the playbook. Manuel says what you see Sunday will be noticeably different, “It’s quite different. There’s a bunch of formations and different gadgets that we’ve added in going into this game.” Manuel added, “I’m excited to get into this game because it’s a true game plan week, we really put in a lot of work and coach Hackett has a great plan for these guys I think it’s a matter of us just executing what he has for us.”
On most NFL teams, but not all the quarterback is named one of the captains. The position of captain is different in the NFL than it is in the NHL. Manuel says don’t look into it because he hasn’t earned it yet, “The biggest thing is you have to earn your stripes in the NFL. I didn’t start the whole season we didn’t win as many games as we wanted to, so I just owe it to earning your stripes. All the guys that were voted captain, at least the guys I voted for they’re veteran guys and have earned their stripes and I think it’s just another thing I have to work towards and just use it as motivation.”
Manuel doesn’t feel snubbed and said just by the nature of his position, he’s already a leader, “As a quarterback, you automatically assume leadership just because you’re the quarterback. I know I’ve done a good job as far as leadership and I think my teammates feel the same way, but you have to earn that C on your chest.”
Many times when you speak to the other coach, he’s very vanilla about the Bills players. Bears coach Marc Trestman did have this to say about Manuel, “He was inconsistent at times, but we did see his ability to move in the pocket, which helps him extend plays and we saw progress along the way.”
There’s always that positive excitement before the opening game. Every team is 0-0 and can set the tone for the season by doing something special. It’s time to see if EJ Manuel is has that in him.