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
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.
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:
- LeSean McCoy
- Matt Forte
- Jamaal Charles
- Alfred Morris
- 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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