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Beyond the stats: Weinke to EJ (Volume III)

This might be the last EJ Manuel comparison for quite some time due to his untimely injury against the Browns. Hopefully he returns soon (but not so soon that he rushes his recovery) and maybe the Bills can win some games in the meantime.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I almost cried when Manuel clutched his knee last Thursday on the sideline. My wife locked herself in our bedroom for fifteen minutes because she was so mad. Her level of fandom is awesome, she cried when Spiller hurt his shoulder last season and refuses to miss a game. I think she likes going to games even more than I do.

Manuel was playing well enough for the Bills to win before he was injured last week. He was sacked twice, and completed one more than half of his passes. Every pass was short, but that seemed to be part of the Bills’ game plan: run the ball a ton and make quick passes to eliminate the Cleveland pass rush.

I updated the similarity score calculation with all of the stat lines from the 24 quarterbacks’ first five games. The most similar player through five games is still Russell Wilson (95.2% similarity). While the two young quarterbacks have been so similar, two categories, completion rate and interceptions, have been dissimilar. Wilson completed over 63% of his pass attempts in his first five games while Manuel has completed just fewer than 57%. On the bright side, Wilson threw six interceptions in his first five games, which is twice as many as Manuel’s current total.

Cam Newton was the second most similar quarterback to EJ Manuel before the Browns game. Now Matt Ryan (93.9% similarity) holds that place. The two have been very similar passers through five games, as they both have completed about 55% of their passes and average almost 6.6 yards per throw. The two have mostly attempted shorter passes, 80% of their targets have been for less than fifteen yards downfield, but Ryan was slightly more successful on his deep throws (50% completion rate compared to Manuel’s 33%).

Ryan broke out of his game manager label in his sixth game. After five straight games with fewer than 200 yards passing, Ryan completed 73% of his passes for 301 yards in a win over Chicago. He went on to throw for 200 yards or more in his next eight games. Oh yeah, he also took the Falcons to the playoffs after they were 4-12 the prior season.

I’m glad Ryan has moved into the second position at this point. He and Wilson are good young quarterbacks that have helped their teams to winning seasons and the playoffs. All Bills fans hope Manuel can do the same. We also hope he doesn’t end up becoming the following four or five players in the similarity rankings. I don’t want to really talk about it, especially with the knee injury, but the list is below.

Manuel’s rushing has been fairly unique to this point (except for Wilson, which part of the reason why the two have been so similar). He’s attempted more runs than 21 of the 24 quarterbacks in this comparison, but has more rushing yards than 18 of them. He isn’t a speedy rushing threat, but has tucked the ball and run when his options downfield aren’t open. JUST GET OUT OF BOUNDS, MAN!!!

EJ is actually better at evading the pass rush when his protection breaks down than scrambling. He can spin out of sacks, extend a play, but still intends to try to find an open receiver before crossing the line of scrimmage. Manuel is developing into a pocket passer on a quick strike/open field offensive attack. Is he the answer to the Bills search for a franchise quarterback? Will he take the Bills to the playoffs and beyond? Maybe. His potential is progressing well, let’s hope his knee is too.

In case you missed the previous installments:

Part I

Part II

Michael Purinton

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