10 Things I Think I Think About The Bills In 2014: PART 9 (h/t Peter King)
9. I Think I Think EJ Manuel Will Have A Russell Wilson-Type Second Season
No, I’m not predicting a Super Bowl win for the Buffalo Bills this season.
I just think EJ Manuel will have a sophomore campaign reminiscent of Russell Wilson.
Wilson’s a more polished passer than Manuel — always has been. He also has one NFL season on the Bills quarterback.
While Wilson’s more willing to take off, I think their scrambling talents are similar.
Most importantly, I think they’re both intelligent signal-callers who play in run-first and run-heavy offenses.
Last year, Wilson only threw 407 passes. For quarterbacks who started at least 13 games, that figure was the lowest in football. His defense allowed a 14.4 points per game.
His interception rate was a minuscule 2.2 percent.
The Seattle Seahawks coaching staff and Wilson himself quickly realized the quarterback didn’t need to be the star of the team for the team to win.
The run game, the defense and a game-managing signal-caller were the fundamental aspects of Seattle’s 13-3 season and ultimate Super Bowl victory.
( Being a “game-managing” quarterback is definitely not a slight on the guy throwing the football. )
Though a shoddy offensive line forced Wilson to improvise outside the pocket more than he would have probably liked, he took what the opposing defense gave him, limited his mistakes by not taking big risks, handed the ball to Marshawn Lynch and turned everything over to the defense.
Manuel finds himself in a very similar situation this season, his second in the NFL.
I don’t think the Bills are going to be as good defensively as the Seahawks were a year ago, but Buffalo’s boasts just as dynamic of a running game.
Actually, with Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon to go along with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, the Bills are deeper in the backfield than the Seahawks were.
With a relatively sound defensive unit from front to back and diversely talented running back committee, and a coach who’s dedicated to the ground game, Manuel can assume a Wilson-like role — and I think he’ll thrive in that role.
Earlier this month, I completed a study that looked at rookie quarterback seasons over the past 10 years and compared Manuel’s debut season to the average statistics.
Quarterbacks drafted in Rounds 1 -3 who threw at least 200 passes in their first NFL seasons were counted in the study.
I called it the Rookie QB Expectation Model.
Here are the final findings. The sample size was 26 quarterbacks:
- Completion percentage – 57.07
- TD percentage – 3.48
- INT percentage – 3.35
- Sack percentage – 6.56
- Yards per completion – 11.61
And Manuel’s rookie year stat line was as follows:
- Completion percentage – 58.8
- TD percentage – 3.6
- INT percentage – 2.9
- Sack percentage – 8.4
- Yards per completion – 11.0
Sack percentage was the only statistical category in which Manuel was significantly worse than average. He posted a better completion, touchdown and interception percentages and his yards-per-completion rate was just 0.6 lower than average.
Based on this model, it’s incorrect to say Manuel had a poor or underwhelming rookie year.
The former first-round pick has a young but loaded receiving corps, a rather sound offensive line and an established pass-catching tight end in Scott Chandler who’s good for 40 catches or so and a handful of touchdowns.
With the wealth of skill around him on both sides of the football, the Bills coaching staff and Manuel — like the Seahawks coach staff and Wilson — will realize the quarterback doesn’t need to be the star of the team for the team to win.