EJ Manuel received a grade of Incomplete in his first NFL season, but the first-round pick of the Buffalo Bills knows he needs to make the grade in Year 2 or risk being out of a job.
The Florida State product had a shaky first season, with some strong performances mixed with difficult games. Manuel largely struggled with injuries, losing a total of six games to two separate knee injuries.
The Buffalo Bills have invested greatly in this season, trading their 2015 first round draft pick in order to move up for wide receiver Sammy Watkins. With a full set of offensive tools, Manuel must perform now or risk losing his job.
“I felt it as soon as I got here – the want and the hunger to win,” Manuel told The Buffalo News. “I’m used to winning. Even though we went 6-10 last year, coming from the program I played for in college, I still have a winning mindset. That’s something that’s never going to change about me.”
“The great thing about it is the opportunity to really help turn this whole city around,” he added. “It’s not even just about football. I feel like it will lift up all of Western New York.”
EJ Manuel is playing under a long shadow in Buffalo. Hall of Famer Jim Kelly was the team’s last franchise quarterback, and since then the team has been on a seemingly futile search for another long-term signal caller.
“You see the type of effect Jim Kelly has on this whole area, just the support that he gets. I think when he first got here, the Bills weren’t very good, either,” Manuel said. “Once he got that thing turned around with a bunch of other great Hall of Famers, it’s a beautiful thing. When you win here in Buffalo, just like when you win at Florida State, it’s the best city on earth. Tallahassee was awesome during college, and I can see Buffalo will be the exact same way.”
EJ Manuel could face even greater pressure now. The team just cast off its ineffective backup quarterback candidates — cutting Jeff Tuel, Thad Lewis, Jordan Palmer, and Dennis Dixon — and instead signed veteran Kyle Orton. Should Manuel struggle, Orton could be called in to start and bring a steady hand to a team many expect to make a playoff push.