The Buffalo Bills didn't see as much of EJ Manuel as they would have liked in 2013, but they evidently saw enough out of him to already name him the starter in 2014.
Coach Doug Marrone confirmed that news Monday, the day after the Bills wrapped up a disappointing 6-10 season. Manuel missed Sunday's season finale and six other games this season while dealing with knee injuries. In 10 games, he went 180-of-306 for 1,972 yards with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
"I would say it was a great season to learn from," Manuel said. "Obviously, you’re going to have ups and downs as a rookie being a young guy in a new system and things like that. … For me I’m just looking forward to the 2014 season and really just honing in on all the things I did well and the things I didn’t do well and just trying to fix the things I did not do well."
Marrone said there were plenty of things he did well, but also plenty to try an fix during the offseason:
"You can see flashes of it during the season, and again it goes with the consistency. I think it’s very important, in his first year he played in 10 games with probably the least amount of practices and preparation to play in those games. We feel very comfortable with the future with EJ."
But that won't prevent the team from adding a quarterback via free agency or the draft if the chance arises. General manager Doug Whaley said anyone at any position will be considered if it's felt that player can make the team better. But the boss said there's no urgent need to improve at quarterback:
"With youth comes inconsistency. I think another year – I always believe that the best step for a player is between his first and second year. All those players that contributed this year, we expect them to make a bigger step next year, play more consistent and be more productive."
Manuel led a comeback win over Carolina in Week Two and an impressive win over the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in Week Four. But he also threw four interceptions in an ugly loss at an inferior Tampa Bay team in Week 14 and was limited to 155 yards in a tough road loss at Pittsburgh in Week 10.
That inconsistency helped lead him to a 4-6 record as a starter. That, combined with questions about his durability, could be cause for concern. But the quarterback insists injuries will not be an issue. he may need minor knee surgery in the coming weeks, but that would only sideline his offseason workout regimen for a week or two.
"I’m not going to dwell on all the bad, because I have done things good and I’ve helped us win games and good situations, but I think as a quarterback and as a young quarterback, there’s a lot of room for improvement, whether I had a great year or whether I didn’t. So I think overall, just the accuracy and I think with that the better understanding of going against these defenses and even better understanding of what we’re doing on offense," he said.
Whaley said the team was happy with backup Thad Lewis' performance and will consider bringing him back again. Kevin Kolb, who missed the entire season with concussion issues, will be re-evaluated during the offseason to determine his medical status. His status with the team will be figured out after that, Whaley said.
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