With the Buffalo Bills standing at 5-5 and their offense sputtering, it appears that the question of whether former starter EJ Manuel will be put back in is starting to float around. It’s a fair question, as Orton can be a free agent at the end of the year and Manuel has another three years left on his contract with Buffalo, so seeing what you have in Manuel is important to the franchise’s future.
Head Coach Doug Marrone has stated that he intends on sticking with Orton, “for at least this week” and that Manuel has learned as he’s sat on the sidelines. Marrone gave himself some wiggle room, and with the playoff aspirations one or two loss away from vanishing it will be interesting to see how Marrone handles his quarterback situation.
For now, Orton has provided the Bills a spark on offense, and brought them close to respectability, despite the abysmal play calling. The passing game has been brought up a notch from where Manuel was, but has also increased turnovers and sack rate.
Again part of that is on the play calling from offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who has increased the number of passes called in a game since Orton was inserted into the lineup. With the increase in passes also comes the increased chance that an immobile quarterback, such as Orton, is sacked.
Manuel was able to start five games, went 2-3 before giving way to Orton who has since gone 3-3. With about the same game sample size let’s size the two up.
|Com-Att||Comp %||Yards||TD||INT||Sacks||Yards per attempt||Yards per Catch||Pass Per TD|
In one more game it’s clear Orton has been the better quarterback doubling up the touchdown throws, as well as the yards, but he’s also thrown the ball 97 more times, or 16 more per game.
Here’s looking at them on a per game basis:
|Pass Attempts||Completions||Yards Per Game||TD per Game|
It’s clear that offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett trusts Orton to throw the ball. But if you put that same faith in EJ here where his numbers go:
|Manuel Per Game||38||22||242||1.5|
|Six Game Projection||228||132||1452||9|
So the difference between Orton and Manuel is 128 yards (21 yards per game) and one total touchdown if EJ was allowed to pass as often as the man who replaced him.
Orton’s play the past two weeks, and a third if you include the Vikings game, has brought this conundrum around. It’s clear Orton is the more polished passer as his completion percentage is six percentage points higher, but it’s not substantially improved to the point where there’s a clear winner. The fact that Manuel is not far off means that both are currently flawed, but again it comes down to Manuel’s physical talent possibly surpassing Orton’s experience.
A lot of the recent struggles on offense can be contributed to Orton’s inability to escape pressure and throw accurately when under duress. The Bills recently played two of the top-five pressure teams in the league, but the book on Orton has been written: If the opposing defense brings pressure he will typically collapse in the face of it.
As for Manuel he has shown that he carries the athleticism to escape pressure, and possibly after watching from the sidelines he has gained the necessary perspective and knowledge to call correct blocking schemes, and make better reads. We won’t know the kind of progress he’s made until he’s back out on the field, though there is no reason to rush into a decision.
The greatest declaration against Manuel was that the Bills coaching staff didn’t trust him. They trust Orton, based off the play calling, but if given the same opportunity Manuel may have been able to take a step further in establishing himself as the leader on offense.
The Bills are still mathematically alive to make the playoffs and until they are eliminated Marrone has to stay the course with Orton. However if, or once, the Bills are eliminated then Marrone should consider running Manuel back out there.
Orton is a known commodity, a .500 quarterback, who will win and lose you some games. Manuel is almost at that same win percentage for his brief career, and provides more upside with his athleticism.
Manuel stated that if he gets another opportunity that he intends to sling the ball around, and he should be that afforded that opportunity so that the fans, and namely the Bills front office, can truly determine if Manuel is the long term answer to this organization’s quarterback woes.