Kevin Kolb had a rough start against the Minnesota Vikings, but he was able to recover nicely to finish 13 of 21 with 111 yards and an interception that probably wasn’t his fault. Still, his competition, E.J. Manuel looked miles ahead of Kolb, and may have won the starting job with a strong showing.
To be fair to Kevin Kolb, he walked into a tough situation in tonight’s game. It’s not as if we’re comparing apples to apples by looking at the two quarterbacks’ performances. Kolb was starting his first game of preseason action, and he was visibly uncomfortable early on. Later in the first half, he was able to settle down and make the throws he needed.
E.J. Manuel has already started one preseason game, and he was playing largely against a backup defensive unit. Still, that shouldn’t detract from his decision making. He was able to move the ball down the field, and the ball was jumping out of his hands. There was no second guessing happening as he made his decision. In that regard, Manuel was as poised as he could have been.
E.J. Manuel’s touchdown pass was a perfect example of why, despite the problems in comparison, Manuel outshined Kolb in tonight’s game. On the play, Manuel’s first read was to the left side, but it was completely blanketed. In addition, the Vikings were able to apply some minor pressure to Manuel in the pocket. Instead of yanking the ball down and scrambling, Manuel kept his eyes moving through his reads and found a wide open receiver in the endzone on the other side of the field.
I’m not comfortable saying that E.J. Manuel is this season’s Russell Wilson, but there are similarities; the most obvious of which is Manuel’s level of play. Like Wilson before him, Manuel is starting to make it impossible for the Bills to start Kevin Kolb over him, not because Kolb is playing poorly, but because Manuel is playing that well. If you’ll remember, Matt Flynn was thought to be the frontrunner for the Seahawks’ starting quarterback position until Wilson blew everyone away with his preseason performances last year.
There’s no doubt that the Bills will experience growing pains if E.J. Manuel is indeed the Bills’ starting quarterback of choice, but the analysis that he’s a raw talent that needs time in the NFL to develop before he can lead his team as the starting quarterback seems woefully inaccurate. The preseason evidence seems to suggest that Manuel is somewhat polished but more than ready to take over as the Bills’ starting quarterback.
Expect Manuel to get the start in week three of the preseason, and with a strong showing against the Redskins, Manuel could be declared the Bills’ starting quarterback shortly thereafter.