Healthy E.J. Manuel to provide huge upgrade behind center for Bills this weekend
The diagnosis ended up being far, far better than whatever the worst-case scenario may be, as Manuel was given a vague 6-8 week timetable with a sprained LCL.
The timetable was far from concrete, but Manuel is fully expected to beat it, as head coach Doug Marrone confirmed Thursday that, barring setbacks, Manuel will start against the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend. Teams take it easy at practice during the later days of the week, so Manuel is highly unlikely to suffer a setback. He'll make his return to the field just over five weeks after suffering the injury.
Manuel will provide an enormous upgrade behind center for the Bills, who lost behind undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel in their most recent game. The 23-13 loss to the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs could have gone much differently if not for Tuel's red zone interception that was returned a hundred yards for a touchdown. Tuel has played in two games, starting one, and has registered an abysmal 45.1 passer rating. There was probably a recent that the neophyte wasn't taken in the draft.
While Manuel hasn't been as impressive as last year's jaw-dropping first-round quarterbacks, he has still had a promising rookie year. Despite mediocre pass protection, Manuel has posted a solid 79.4 passer rating with five touchdowns to just three interceptions. While the passer rating may not seem impressive, keep in mind that Cam Newton was just a few points higher at 84.5 during his Rookie of the Year campaign back in 2011.
Manuel is not much of a fantasy option in his own right, but he is an upgrade for the Bills' other skill position players. He'll likely do a better job of getting the ball to his receivers, and his dual-threat skill set will help open lanes for running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Manuel is still very raw, so we should see him make constant improvements as the season goes on.