The New England Patriots are gearing up to face a rookie quarterback in E.J. Manuel, as the Buffalo Bills named Manuel the starter yesterday after seeing he is completely fit to play on Sunday. Manuel will have his work cut out for him against a Patriots team that traditionally eats rookie quarterbacks up for lunch, and his biggest concern should be a hobbled secondary and a defense that won’t make Manuel’s job any easier in trying to keep up with the Patriots high-powered offense.
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
Throughout the week, players such as Jerod Mayo and coaches such as Bill Belichick have praised E.J. Manuel for his athleticism, rushing ability, and arm strength. His athletic ability and rushing bring a different dimension to the table, and I’ll bet that was one reason why the Bills felt comfortable taking him in the first round of the draft.
New England Patriots defensive tackle Tommy Kelly looks like an excellent signing to this point, because he seems incredibly dedicated and should be back to performing at an elite level. Playing next to star DT Vince Wilfork, Kelly should once again do an impeccable job putting pressure on the quarterback, and he showed in August that he still has the tools. Kelly is charged with trying to put Manuel to the ground by bringing some hot interior pressure, and he’ll hope to avoid being blocked by center Eric Wood, who excels as a pass protector.
Here’s what Kelly said about the Bills rookie signal-caller, “He runs a little bit but he tries to stay in that pocket. He tries to stay in that pocket and get that ball out of his hands. He’ll run when necessary. But to say he’s like Michael Vick, nah. But he’ll run, he’s definitely a threat.”
It’s interesting to see that Kelly views Manuel as somebody who prefers to stay in the pocket and will only run when he needs to, and that seems to be an accurate description. Not only do I want to see how the Patriots game plan against Manuel, but I also want to see how many designed runs the Bills have for Manuel on Sunday.