EJ Manuel, the first quarterback taken in the 2013 NFL Draft, is now in a three-man battle for the Buffalo Bills' starting quarterback job. If he loses, many believe that his days in Buffalo could be numbered. According to general manager Doug Whaley, this is a make-or-break year for Manuel.
Manuel was thrust in to the starting lineup before he was ready, following a career-ending concussion for Kevin Kolb. This led to an up-and-down rookie season, plagued with injuries and inconsistencies. Manuel struggled with some of the basic fundamentals of the position. His mechanics were erratic, which to led improper and missed reads, as well as inaccurate passes.
Four games in to his sophomore season and 14 games in to his NFL career, the coaching staff had seen enough and benched Manuel for the remainder of the 2014 season. Manuel vowed to be more aggressive and "play his game" the next time he had the opportunity to do so.
Manuel will receive stiff competition for the starting job. Matt Cassel, the favorite to start opening day, brings veteran leadership and 10 years of NFL experience that the offense can use, as it's flooded with talent at the skill positions. With a defense that is expected to have another great year, an average and reliable quarterback might be all that the Bills might need to make the playoffs.
Tyrod Taylor, entering his fifth year, is the wild card of the group. A former backup with Baltimore, Taylor sat behind Joe Flacco for his entire career, making only spot appearances. He has the physical skill traits that new offensive coordinator Greg Roman might be looking for, as he offers similar skills as Colin Kaepernick, Roman's former quarterback. Taylor might have the edge over Manuel physically, and has a higher ceiling than Cassel, but the lack of playing time might prove to be a disadvantage to him as the competition takes shape.
Gauging fan sentiment about Manuel's chances in this competition, I'll say many believe that Manuel will lose the job. However, there isn't a clear opinion if he'll ever start a game for the Bills again. If you believe the latest theory that Manuel might be done in Buffalo if he doesn't win the job, he'll never start a game for the Bills again. However, if you believe Roman, who said that's "the furthest thing from the truth", Manuel might still have a chance.
Due to the contradicting reports, I think it's time for us fans to weigh in.
Over or under: 3.5 games started for EJ Manuel in 2015
There is still a chance that Manuel will win the job outright. There is also the possibility that he wins the backup job, and can be placed in the lineup due to injury or poor play from the starter. The Bills do open their season with tough games against Indianapolis, New England, Miami, and the Giants.
If Manuel wins the starting job, he'll have to win early or play extremely well in order to keep it. Manuel might be on an even shorter leash than the one he was on last season. This coaching staff has no allegiance to him, and will attempt to salvage the season if the team starts 0-3, by pulling Manuel in favor of the backup.
The over/under is strategically set at 3.5 games, because the Bills can easily go 0-3, and if that happens there is no doubt that whomever the quarterback is, he'll be removed from the lineup in favor of the backup. What do you think? Will Manuel start four or more games in 2015? Or will he lose the starting gig this summer and never see the light of day again?