Fans had a number of throws from Manuel to cheer about on Sunday night including the Florida State product hooking up twice with T.J. Graham on fly routes that produced touchdowns during one on one drills between receivers and defensive backs. Manuel also had the pass of the day during Monday's practice, completing a throw some 30 yards down the right sideline on the outside shoulder of rookie tight end Chris Gragg.
Its been only two practices but Manuel says he already feels different than he did during the off season Organized Team Activities at Ralph Wilson Stadium. "I feel a lot more comfortable. I understand my protections" Manuel said. "I’ve been going over that a lot in the off season and also now with Coach(Nathaniel) Hackett and just the overall playbook. I feel I have a better grasp on it now than I did in the OTA’s. My goal is just to get better every day, for my team and my teammates just to get better every day so that’s what I try to stick to."
Manuel is catching a little break from the coaching staff. The defense has definitely been more aggressive when Kevin Kolb has been on the field, showing more looks and blitzing more often but Head Coach Doug Marrone acknowledged that is about to change. "Kevin is seeing more of the exotic stuff from our defense as we’re bringing EJ along" Marrone said following Monday's two hour and 15 minute practice. "We gave him a little more reps today but we’re careful in what we’re showing him. EJ’s in a pretty decent position. We throw Kevin out there and Kevin’s seeing everything, sometimes for the first time, and EJ is able to sit back, look at it and talk in the class room about it and learn from it. Now we have to start stepping it up and put him(EJ) in those situations too."
During Monday's practice Manuel was the first quarterback up in the initial team drill(as opposed to Sunday night) but Kolb began the rotation during team work the rest of the session. Even though Manuel is going through his first NFL training camp, right guard Kraig Urbik says he doesn't seem like a rookie. "He’s obviously learning but you don’t see that rookie ‘doe in the headlights’ look" the former Wisconsin Badger said. "He also takes charge of the huddle(like Kevin Kolb), gets us lined up and lets us know where we’re going. From the first day he walked in he was a very confident player, very sure of himself and you see it in the field."
During an interview with the WGR morning show on Monday, Urbik said it wouldn't be awkward at all if Manuel ends up winning the job and is in charge of players older and more experienced than him. " I don’t think so. When we’re out there and I see EJ telling us what to do, I don’t see a rookie" Urbik said. " I just don’t. I look at him and I see his confidence and I see his ability."
Manuel was asked how he goes about the process of earning the trust of his new teammates. "I think the biggest thing is off the field be accountable. Be on time to meetings and all that stuff" the 6-4, 237 pound QB said. "You don’t want to be the guy who’s late. And also on the field, just produce. That’s really all you can do. Don’t do a lot of talking."
Not surprisingly, Manuel has drawn the most reaction from fans over the first two days of work at St. John Fisher College. Even though he's focused on practice, Manuel admits he's aware of the reception he's getting. "That makes you feel great, one as a player and also being new to the franchise" Manuel said. "Everyone’s been very inviting, seeing your jersey out in the stands and seeing so many people at practice. They cheer for us when we’re just walking through the tunnel going to the other field. That part is pretty cool."
Manuel, who was fairly brief in his answers with the media on Monday, said he wasn't nervous during the Sunday night practice in front of a standing room only crowd. When asked if any part of this process has been overwhelming, his response was simply "no sir".