By Sal Capaccio
After the Bills made EJ Manuel their only pick in the first round of the draft, I spent a lot of time watching film of him. Before the draft, I had seen him play several times at Florida State and watched him on film, but not with as much of a critical eye as I did after the pick was made Thursday night.
Many of you know I was a high school football coach in Florida for over ten years before coming back to Buffalo. I primarily coached QBs and have also been around some of the top QB coaches in the nation at all levels and watched them and even worked with them as they worked with some of the top college prospects.
He's of course a good runner, but these are simply my observations of him as a passer from a technical and coaching standpoint.
The first thing I noticed - jumped off the film in fact - that is VERY impressive and very tough to teach and get young QBs to do is seeing where Manuel holds the ball in his drop and before his release - up top, above the shoulders, near his ear. It's a coach's dream to see this so consistently. He must have been coached very well at a younger age and really paid attention to what he was learning, because as much as you try to get younger passers to do this, they almost always fall back into dropping the ball below their shoulders either as they drop back or just after their last foot hits on their drop-back. It's more comfortable and natural down there. It even looks odd sometimes to people to keep it above the shoulders. But, it's the right position, and for for Manuel, it's automatic to get the ball up and then keep it there, which is very impressive.
Manuel almost always has the ball in a perfect position to throw
There are two reasons this is so important.
First, having the ball that high at all times allows him to be in a better position to release it quicker. And he does. Very quickly. The other thing I was extremely impressed by was his quick release. As soon as Manuel wants to throw, the ball goes back - and then out of his hands - fast. That's something you must have at the NFL level. It's especially important for a taller QB like EJ because most taller quarterbacks have longer arms and it takes that extra second get the ball back to delivery position. Manuel keeps his motion very compact, and it's mostly because of where the ball starts out as soon as he takes the snap and then keeping it there throughout the process of the drop and foot plant.
Second, it allows him to be a much better passer while on the run, and actually give him more options while moving, because when he's scrambling, he usually keeps the ball in that same position. Again, tough to teach. You see very few young QBs do this so technically sound. Manuel keeps the ball high while moving, which means he can throw it quickly at any time or still pull it down and run.
That takes me to what I didn't like. He runs a little too often when things aren't there right away. I see him look at one receiver and then when he is covered, too often pulls the ball down to run instead of going through his progression to the next target. Granted, some of this was most likely by design in the FSU offense because of how good of a runner he is, but in the NFL, Manuel won't have as much room to do that and will have to be better at finding his next receiver when his primary option isn't open.
Also, I didn't like how he relies on his strong arm too much as compared to also using his body and legs to get into some of his throws. His arm is so strong, he got away with it a lot in college. But I would have liked to have seen him step into his throws more often than he did, set his feet better, and use his big frame to power through. The strength is still there because he has a cannon for an arm, but those issues can definitely lead to accuracy problems, especially in the NFL where the throwing window is so much smaller.
Be sure to listen to Joe Buscaglia and me Friday from 11am-3pm and Saturday from 11am-5pm on WGR as we continue to break down the pick of EJ Manuel and the rest of the Bills draft.
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