Dec 15, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel (3) acknowledges the fans as he walks off the field after their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. The Buffalo Bills beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Manuel vs. Spiller: The Argument For EJ Manuel


I’ve been asked by a number of friends about my feelings on EJ Manuel. By the end of the conversation no one wants to talk to me and some question my sanity; Especially when I support EJ Manuel and use CJ Spiller’s questionable performance in his career in Buffalo to argue my case.

Why Spiller?

Before I explain myself, please don’t think that I am not a fan of Spiller. He’s a great guy and good role model for the people of this city. That being said, he’s really done nothing that makes him stand out to me as a top 5 running back. In fact, as a fan you would be hypocritical if you were to doubt EJ Manuel and have complete faith in CJ Spiller, which a lot of Buffalo Bills fans do today.


Because Spiller really hasn’t done that much to begin with. At least not enough to not fall under the same scrutiny as Manuel in his rookie season.

Back To Basics

Consider that both players were first round picks; both CJ Spiller and EJ Manuel were picks that were considered a “reach”. When the Buffalo Bills drafted Spiller in the first round in 2010, he was viewed by Buddy Nix as a player the organization could not pass up. Even though they had other holes to fill,  the first round talent at the 9th pick in the NFL draft forced Buffalo’s hand. With Manuel last year, he was viewed as a reach because of his raw and unpolished skill, but worthy of the pick due to his leadership and intelligence. It is important to realize what a top 5 running back entails in the NFL these days. Consider the top backs from last season:

  1. LeSean McCoy
  2. Matt Forte
  3. Jamaal Charles
  4. Alfred Morris
  5. Adrian Peterson

Compared to these backs, Spiller was ranked 15th due to injury and playing on an organization that is still building itself up. Ironically so was EJ Manuel. He was playing in his first season under an inexperienced coaching staff and a new offensive scheme.  Spiller, however, couldn’t seem to find the ball out of the backfield and play to his strengths; so it seems that both Manuel and Spiller suffered due to the offensive playcalling more than people like to admit.

What About The Injuries?

Even with Spiller’s injury, he still came close to breaking 1,000 yards last season. This is what most people preach to me when I present my Manuel/Spiller argument. However, Fred Jackson also played hurt and had almost as many yards rushing, not to mention he had more receiving yards and TD’s. Jackson was especially featured in the redzone, which for argument’s sake won’t be held against Spiller; but the receiving yards he had above Spiller, who runs a 4.27 forty yard dash, is inexcusable. Looking at the numbers from last year and comparing the performance of Spiller of the past two years, it seems that something more has hindered him from becoming the back that he should be. Whether it was play calling or poor line play, his performance last season was not entirely his fault.

However, this brings some hard questions to light. Can Spiller be a featured top 5 back when Jackson retires? Can CJ Spiller play an entire season as that feature back without getting hurt? Is he worth top 5 back money? These questions cast a shadow of doubt and for good reason. Although EJ Manuel has had his knee surgeries and injuries in his young age, he still has a lot of gas in the tank. To be honest, the only way to prepare against injuries is to play smart, physical, and know when not to get hit.


My conclusion? You cannot base your judgement of EJ Manuel and his ability to become a reliable franchise quarterback off his rookie season alone. If you are so quick to doubt his ability to play then you also have equally strong reasoning to feel the same way about CJ Spiller.

But again, this is only my view on the matter.

What do you think?

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Tags: Cj Spiller EJ Manuel

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  • chas territo

    I agree, Zack. Spiller was not used correctly and add his injuries and you have a wasted player’s spot on our team. EJ did show promise, Hackett(?),injuries, lack of cohesion and a few other factors made him seem to be a ‘whatif?’ kind of player. By no means does this mean either should be replaced or cut. What they both need is a good offensive line that’s not like last years? Offensive, an embarrassment line! GO BILLS!!

  • NWBill

    You make some really great points here. I’m amazed that people get down on Manuel – not taking into consideration all of the factors involved during his first season …not least of which is the fact that he was a rookie under a brand new coach, OC, playbook, and staff. The injuries were a part of it, sure – but, geeze, the guy had a lot on his plate for a rookie. I think, overall, he did well …and showed tons of promise. When he gets enough time on the field, in this system (and especially now that he has a QB coach to really work with him), his native talent and football smarts should really start revealing themselves.

    People get too wrapped up in “win now!” for rookies, treating every rookie QB on the same level as Brady, Manning, etc. As we saw in the Super Bowl, even greats like Manning have bad days. Let’s try to keep that in mind when discussing EJ Manuel.

    As for Spiller, I only have one concern about him; I’m not convinced he has the physical makeup to make it through an entire gruelling season as a team’s featured back. Jackson obviously does – but a Fred Jackson doesn’t grow on trees, and comes along very rarely. CJ has mountains of talent – and I believe he’s now in an offensive system that will cater to it ….but he has to prove that he can stay on the field. Until he does that, he won’t be a top-5 back; even with blazing speed and fantastic moves in the open field.

    Last season, Hackett ran the offense through a simplified playbook because he had a rookie QB, no QB coach, untested WRs, and injuries to the RBs. The OL had its’ questions, as well – especially at the guard position, which affects the running game. We have no idea what this offense can accomplish because of those reasons; until those pieces start falling into place, we have to wait and see – and stop pre-judging players who are laboring under those circumstances.

  • chas territo

    CJ looked pretty good the year before didn’t he? Because then we had a good offensive line, last year as you know we did not. With a better above average o-line I think he will be damn good. The big difference between him and Freddie is leg strength and determination. Freddie does not give up on a play whereas CJ does at times, enough to not gain one single yard. CJ’s durability last year was the 1st he had questions about it. I can only hope with this draft we get 2 good players, guard and a tackle because as we know we are terrible with the current ‘forget about’ one’s we do have??

    EJ, I believe will be much better this year because we now have a QB coach and Hackett will be full on as an OC. The second half of the year Hackett seemed to get better as a play caller, but he still wasn’t the greatest. What so many forget is, we had a roster full of rookies from Coaches to players and of course confusion, non cohesion and mistakes were made. Please people give this team the time necessary to become what they will?? GO BILLS!!

  • NWBill

    If the Bills are smart, they’ll draft three main types of players in this years’ draft: guards, tackles, and tall, fast WRs who can jump in the red zone and are good at YAC. Those are the holes this team has right now – along with linebacker. Move Kiko to weakside LB, and draft a mike LB who can stuff and cover in the middle of the field. You fill those holes, you have a team that can go deep into the playoffs (as long as EJ continues to develop).

  • chas territo

    From the beginning I’ve touted E. Ebron with our 1st pick. Many reasons why he makes to me a better choice. The 2 TE sets, the fast pass and catch play(s), Doesn’t take chances away from our young WR’s and Stevie that another ROOKIE WR would. Yes, Ebron would be a rookie too, but a TE versus a WR have different play types and responsibilities where a TE only has to occasionally block or fun up field with posts, slants or curl plays. Simpler for a Rookie TE to adapt than it is for a rookie WR. That’s how I see it, right or wrong, I stand by my words. GO BILLS!!