Bills' Manuel knows key to success is trusting what he sees
by Joe Buscaglia,posted May 29 2014 1:29PM
It was a humbling offseason for Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel. Of course excited about the present opportunity to get a true few months of work on his own in preparation for his second season as a starter, Manuel went back and watched himself from 2013 to the point where he couldn't watch anymore.
"Each game probably twice," he said. "So I kind of watched out my games, it wasn't hard, but obviously there's things that I left out there on the field. So anytime as a competitor, that's gonna frustrate you."
Besides missed throws that will come with the territory of being a rookie quarterback in the National Football League, the more concerning part of Manuel's game in his first year was missed opportunities had he just waited for routes to open up against specific coverages. The former first-round pick recognized it, accepted it and seems quite eager to show that it won't be the case in 2014.
"Being a young guy, sometimes you will look past somebody in a progression where you could have just held on a half second longer he may have came open," Manuel said Wednesday. "So just going through my own film study through this offseason I think that's something I noticed, but, I was happy to show that improvement today."
That improvement came in the form of a recognition of a busted coverage during 11-on-11 drills at the Bills' first Organized Team Activities session. A linebacker didn't fufill his responsibilities and tight end Tony Moeaki slipped behind the coverage. Manuel, who seemed as though he was about to go short with the throw, saw Moeaki down the field at the last second and delivered a pass that gained at least 25 to 30 yards.
The play drew cheers and applause from both offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and quarterbacks coach Todd Downing. A stress for them this offseason has been to let Manuel know to trust what he sees.
"I think that's a hurdle... I've seen it and I think I'm getting over that hump now, truly just taking your time," the quarterback said. "It's so hard because the game happens so fast, but as a quarterback, you know you don't want to rush. You want to be quick, but you don't want be too fast, you know when you're just overlooking guys. It was just simply going through the reads, [Moeaki] was wide open, threw a ball down there to him and touchdown."
Besides self-evaluation, Manuel went through the offseason and watched four other starting quarterbacks in the NFL, all with different stylistic approaches to their craft. He mentioned Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick, Seattle's Russell Wilson and New Orleans' Drew Brees as the four he did film study on during his time off.
The common link between them is simple. Three of the four have won a Super Bowl, and all four have been the starting quarterback in the biggest game of the year.
"I started watching a couple other guys I wanted to assimilate my game after a little bit and that was really good for me," Manuel affirmed. "All guys who, different sizes, different shapes -- whatever you want to call it, different style of quarterbacks -- but they all get the job done."
Manuel, and the Bills for that matter, will have to hope that all the work he put in the offseason with self-evaluation will help improve the product on the field. Even though they're just words, admitting fault is an encouraging first step for a young, developing quarterback.