Buffalo Bills head coach announced that E.J. Manuel will be healthy enough to start against the New England Patriots, and it is news that doesn’t come as a surprise at all. Manuel started practicing on Sunday, and he has progressed well from knee surgery. The first-round QB also strongly stated his desire to play in Week 1, and he certainly seems healthy enough to make his debut against the Patriots. While the Bills are high on Jeff Tuel and stated that they would have been comfortable starting the UDFA out of Washington State, it is clearly more ideal for the Bills to start Manuel instead of Tuel.
Buffalo Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel (3) drops back to pass against the Minnesota Vikings during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Bills beat the Vikings 20-16. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
That means the Patriots won’t be facing a huge question mark at quarterback in the first week, but the Patriots will still hope to take advantage of it being Manuel’s debut. But Manuel has the make-up of a franchise quarterback mentally, so the jitters shouldn’t affect him too much.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had this to say about E.J. Manuel, via ESPN Boston, “There isn’t a ton of Buffalo film on [him]. We saw [him] play in college and scouted [him] coming out, but that doesn’t mean as much as what [he does] in this offense and how [he does it].”
Star linebacker Jerod Mayo also sent some praise Manuel’s way, “Strong arm. He can also run the ball. They have a lot of different packages for him.”
It’s going to be interesting to see how the Bills use Manuel’s arm strength and intriguing rushing ability in his first game, and it is clear that Manuel’s best asset is his ability to potentially make some big plays. Stevie Johnson should create some mis-matches in the slot against Kyle Arrington when the Bills run three-wide sets, so we should also watch closely for how the Patriots gameplan against that (this will mostly come down to how they use Devin McCourty, the way I see it).