Buffalo Bills: Sammy Watkins Backs EJ Manuel


Buffalo Bills: Sammy Watkins Backs EJ Manuel

It’s widely believed that the Buffalo Bills have one of their most competitive and strongest rosters since they were last in the playoffs in 1999. However, the one position where there is still some uncertainty is, unfortunately, the most crucial position on any team: the quarterback.

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In essence, it is expected to be a battle between EJ Manuel and the recently-acquired Matt Cassel as to who will be the starter for the 2015 season. Understandably, a lot of Bills fans are underwhelmed by either proposition.

The majority of analysts believe that Cassel will end up winning the role. In many ways, it is thought that he will provide a more steadying veteran influence than Manuel, similar to what Kyle Orton did for the Bills last season.

The 32-year old has certainly had his moments, including the 2010 campaign, when he made the pro bowl while playing for the Kansas City Chiefs. During that year, he threw for over 3,000 yards, and had career-highs in touchdown passes (27) and passer rating (93.0).

However, Manuel has support from at least one player on the Bills roster. And it’s a prominent one – Sammy Watkins.

Sep 21, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (14) on the field before a game against the San Diego Chargers at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

As Evan Massey of sportsglory.com reported, Watkins said: “That’s my guy. I believe in him 100 percent and I told him that whether he’s the starter or not. He’s a totally different guy.”

Certainly, when one of the Bills biggest offensive threats backs Manuel, it means something. In particular, it is interesting that Watkins thinks his quarterback is a totally different person.

This would seem to indicate that Manuel has matured a lot, since being picked 16th overall in the 2013 NFL draft. In some respects, last season would have had a lot to do with this.

After starting the 2014 campaign 2-0, Manuel lost his next two games, leading to Orton taking over the starting role. The Bills went on to finish 9-7, narrowly missing out on a playoff berth.

However, despite Orton’s veteran experience, it was really the number four ranked defense that kept the Bills in contention all season. The offence finished up in 26th place, averaging 318.5 yards per game.

This is not an attempt to downplay what Orton did for Buffalo, but there is no reason Manuel cannot do a decent job if he gets the chance to start. His stats weren’t that bad in 2014, as he threw for 838 yards and five touchdowns, while adding 52 yards and another touchdown on the ground.

The biggest concern surrounding the Virginia Beach, Virginia native appears to be his accuracy. In his professional career to date, he has a 58.6 percent completion percentage.

However, there are certain factors which can help improve his accuracy, including the presence of a strong running game. With the addition of LeSean McCoy and the return of Fred Jackson, the Bills appear set in this respect.

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It also helps if you have some good weapons to throw to. Along those lines, adding Percy Harvin (assuming his head is in the game) and Charles Clay to line up with Watkins can only help Manuel. (McCoy and Jackson out of the backfield doesn’t hurt either.)

Of course, all of this counts for little, if you don’t have an offensive line that allows you time to throw the ball. Whether you like him or not – and head coach Rex Ryan has said he’s on a short leash – Richie Incognito should boost the line’s performance this year.

At 25-year’s old, Manuel has time to fulfill his undoubted potential. Now, if he can just beat out Cassel for the starting role, he has the talent around him to help prove this to the NFL.

Next: Bills Sammy Watkins recovering from surgery