Going into the 2014 off season the Bills primary goal was to help EJ Manuel. Whether that be with more receiving talent, bigger and hopefully better offensive linemen or extra coaches. One hot topic this off season has been the drafting of Sammy Watkins and the trade of Stevie Johnson. It's this dynamic I want to put a different spin on.
Let's talk about EJ for a second here. What are EJ's biggest issues right now? I'd say accuracy and pocket presence are at the top of the list along with injury. I'm going to focus on accuracy and pocket presence because of Stevie and Sammy.
A QB's progressions can help with both accuracy and pocket presence. With the proper timing between a QB's drop back and a WR's route, a QB can go through his progressions more effectively and have a better idea of where his WR's are going to be. If he's under center and does say a 5 step drop, then he knows to look at WR#1 at the top of his drop. If that's not available then he can do a hitch step and look to WR#2. Then if that's not available he can do another hitch step and look at WR#3 or check down.
The timing of the routes and his drop backs are what's important and what I feel is the reason why Stevie was traded. When EJ would get to his drop Stevie might be 1 or 2 steps behind or ahead of where EJ thinks he would be because of how unique his route running is. That throws the timing off completely on his throws, especially when you consider that our offense is west coast based with timing concepts built into it.
Yesterday EJ said this about Sammy:
"Sammy is a great route runner," said Manuel. "He always gives you the true route so as long as you’re on point with your drop and your footwork and everything like that you just throw it to a spot and he’s going to catch it."
It seems that EJ is comfortable with knowing where Sammy will be. The more comfortable he is the better QB he should be. With Stevie, EJ had to pay much more attention to where the WR was with his route and hope he doesn't do some weird juke move and juke out the defender and EJ. I know we all saw more than a few times this year that EJ's passes were ahead or behind Stevie. Or that Stevie wouldn't be looking for the ball when it arrived.
The differences in the QB and the offense are the big reasons why Stevie was traded. With Chan's spread offense there was more room for receivers to operate and for Fitz to make quick reads but this offense is more traditional and much more timing oriented. As a result, Stevie simply wasn't the greatest fit here.
Sammy was brought in not just for his route running but getting EJ receivers he can trust. I think that certainly played a big part in the decision to go get him.