To this day I believe that EJ Manuel was not drafted with the intention to start week 1 against the Patriots. Since we will never know the real answer it’s not even worth debating it, but I do think that Kevin Kolb was set to start under center for the 2013 season while we groomed EJ Manuel into an NFL quarterback. Obviously that plan was changed as we rushed Manuel into the NFL experience, and we all know how that turned out.
When Manuel was drafted we picked up a guy who has great intangibles, mountains of talent, the strength and mentality to be able to play quarterback at the NFL level, yet he was exactly as advertised and rough around the edges mechanically. When you go back and watch the film one thing that sticks out in inconsistency among Manuel’s game. There are times where he looks like Peyton Manning and there are times where he looks like Rob Johnson, it’s actually incredible to watch. One thing that sticks out like a sore thumb is his footwork after the snap. Coming out of FSU this was never addressed as in college he was expected to just go out and win on athletic ability alone. In a stroke of luck I was able to find a video on YouTube of every snap of the infamous Browns game from week 5 last year.
One thing Manuel was doing very well against the underrated defense of the Cleveland Browns was making a pre-snap read. He read the defense and knew his receiver before he was taking his snap and he was doing this at a high level. Take for example this play:
Manuel reads the defense and delivers the ball to Robert Woods for the first down. Woods runs a precise route. Watch this play a couple more times and notice Manuel’s feet. He doesn’t step into the ball and doesn’t get full drive onto the ball, which had potential to hit Woods in stride and go for more yards and would have given him a chance to make a play.
Here is the next play that he threw the ball:
Again, watch his feet. Similar drop but he doesn’t step into the ball and the throw is late and away, making it look like the CB made an outstanding play on the ball, but it was just an off throw because the mechanics on the lower half of Manuel aren’t anywhere close to what they should be.
If you want to see what this play could look like with proper footwork after the QB makes a great read and hits the receiver in stride, here’s a good one:
Notice Rodgers footwork and the fluid motions he makes as he goes from backwards to forwards before he puts his whole body into the throw. It doesn’t even look like he’s changing directions as it’s all one motion. This is the difference between mechanics and Manuel getting by on his arm strength his whole career at FSU, he never had to learn the proper footwork because just his arm was good enough to win games at that level.
As I was watching the game I also noticed a few plays that could actually give EJ the benefit of the doubt, for example:
Must be hard to worry about where your feet are when your right tackle takes a play off, let’s a man walk right around him and doesn’t even notice. Seriously look at Pears he looks surprised. This is another issue we have addressed in the offseason.
The silver lining in all of this is that Manuel and Hackett now have Todd Downing as QB Coach to help fix the mechanics and these problems. If you watch the film aside from the Tampa Bay and Steelers games, Manuel has his reads down, yet can still improve. Once these mechanics become second nature and he can focus on his reads Manuel can become a dangerous QB with all of the weapons he has to choose from.