The Buffalo Bills have been searching for a franchise quarterback seemingly since the days of Jim Kelly, and they think they may have one in E.J. Manuel. Manuel, a rookie out of Florida State, was drafted by the Buffalo Bills with the 16th overall pick. The Bills originally had the 8th overall pick, but traded back in the draft because of their confidence in being able to get him later. Manuel was the first quarterback drafted, and the only one in the first round.
In his first three games, the 6’4" 237 lb Manuel has completed 59.3% of his passes for 689 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception, while also rushing for 76 yards on 13 carries. While the Bills’ record stands at 1-2, Manuel has kept his team relevant in every game so far (something the Bills are not used to), with each game being separated by only one score or less.
The Baltimore Ravens have notoriously struggled against dual threat quarterbacks like Manuel. While they have faced exclusively pocket passers so far this season, the Ravens have a significant sample size of dual threat quarterbacks from last season.
In week two of last season, the Ravens faced Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles, a game that the Eagles won 24-23. The Ravens struggled against Vick, as he would pass for 371 yards 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions while rushing for 34 yards and another touchdown on 10 carries.
Against the Washington Redskins in week fourteen, the Ravens defense once again struggled to contain both the passing and rushing aspects of their opposing quarterback. Robert Griffin III passed for 242 yards and 1 touchdown while creating another 34 yards on 7 carries. While Griffin would be unable to finish the game, his team would win in overtime.
The Ravens greatest struggle against this dynamic style of play came in the Superbowl, which coincidentally is the only one of these games they won. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick dominated the Ravens’ defense for 302 passing yards, 1 passing touchdown, 1 interception, 62 rushing yards, and 1 rushing touchdown.
While the Ravens have a very impressive track record playing against rookie quarterbacks, their pattern of play against dual threat quarterbacks like E.J. Manuel is troubling. Going in the Ravens’ favor, however, is their newly revamped defense, which has yet to give up a touchdown after getting embarrassed by Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in week one.
E.J. Manuel is no Colin Kaepernick, or even a Michael Vick, and is certainly not a Robert Griffin, but the Ravens cannot underestimate him. To contain Manuel, the defensive line must take advantage of the Bills’ ailing offensive line and struggling run game, giving the defensive backs freedom to roam the field and shut down the pass. It is certainly possible, but it will not be easy for the Baltimore Ravens to shut down E.J. Manuel.
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