EJ Manuel rebounded from a shaky start against the Steelers to have what is probably his best game of the year so far against the New York Jets. He finished the game 20/28 for 245 yards and 2 TDs and really proved the critics wrong even with his top 2 receivers out and no running game. This was after the Steelers game where he finished a dreadful 22/39 for 155 yards and some were starting to have doubts about him and whether the Bills should be looking at a QB in the next draft. However last week looked more like rust than actual concerns and EJ looked better than his rookie counterpart Geno Smith.
In this game he put those accuracy problems behind him and was hitting most of his passes. His footwork looked much improved as he wasn’t missing wide or underthrowing but instead hitting right on target. Having another week of practice and another week back from the knee injury seemed to do wonders for EJ as he looked more comfortable in the pocket and was not rushing his throws. The Jets defense was giving him the underneath passes and instead of forcing the ball down the field and causing a turnover like Geno Smith was doing, he would take what the defense was giving him and pick apart the secondary with ease with the underneath throws.
The playcalling was way better as Nathaniel Hackett left the booth upstairs and called plays on the sideline. This could have been a reason why the playcalling was not as predictable as before and allowed EJ to make the plays that needed to be made. Having Hackett on the sideline should be something the Bills continue as the offense seemed to flow better than it has ever before this year. This was the first game the Bills scored more than 24 points and while the defense may have contributed greatly to the final score, the offense took advantage of those turnovers for points. Hackett could also better coach EJ and react better to the situations he is seeing than upstairs.
The biggest concern before this game was the lack of deep shots by EJ. It was a concern I had as last week he was a checkdown machine. However in this game his best three passes were vertical throws that really stretch the field which the Bills have been lacking for the most part. The first of these was a nice TD pass to TJ Graham for 34 yards while under pressure. It was a little underthrown but he threw it in a place where only Graham can make a play and he did which led to the score and really started the rout. His second touchdown pass came of consecutive deep bombs of 40+ yards that showed the accuracy concerns throwing deep were not as big as previously thought. The first of these passes was a pass along the sideline to TJ Graham for 40 yards. It was a great throw and was right on the money. The finisher on that came on the next play where in the gun EJ threw a deep bomb to Marquise Goodwin for 43. He may have overthrown it but with Goodwin’s speed, there is no such thing as an overthrown ball.
Overall it was a much improved game that was needed for EJ’s confidence going into the rest of the season. The rust of the Steelers game was gone and he looked like a new passer. He was hitting the intermediate routes and even hitting on a couple of deep passes that gives the Bills a new wrinkle for opponents to worry about. I like how EJ was under center more and there was a comfort level not seen in the previous week. Even without his top two receivers EJ had a great game and really made the offense around him better. Hopefully in the coming weeks the run game will be much improved so that EJ can take shots down the feel off play-action and really have this offense reach new heights. Now the Bills could potentially go on a run and finish above .500 and if EJ plays more like this week than last week, that isn’t out of the realm of possibilities.
Written by ArcherNoles, GOOOOOOO Fighting Cutcliffes!!!