EJ Manuel has somewhat cracked under the pressure of having all of Western New York monitoring his every step, but he's putting that all behind him in an effort to get better and help his team.
Manuel has struggled this preseason, and has yet to lead his first offensive unit to a touchdown in three preseason games. That is something he takes to heart.
"Every drive we get the ball we don’t want to end it with a field goal," Manuel said. "That’s good, but we also want to finish it with a touchdown whether that’s me throwing the ball or when our backs swing the ball in. We have plenty of playmakers and a bunch of power and it’s just our job to finish the job once we get down there in the red zone."
Though it's just preseason, it is still alarming that the team has yet to score a touchdown with Manuel at the helm, considering all of the talent he has around him. Manuel's game will be under a constant microscope this season because of that talent, and Buffalo supporters have already begun to wonder if he truly has what it takes to take the Bills to the next level. Still, the preseason is used mainly for reps, as both offensive and defensive units show more vanilla packages and they don't game plan, something Manuel has pointed out.
"We’re not really game planning," Manuel said. "Trust and believe that there’s a lot of stuff that we could do down there. Obviously these are still preseason games, but the competitive edge of us makes us want to score so we’re not going to use that as an excuse. Nonetheless, we haven’t truly been game planning. I know we’re working on it each and every day at practice. At the end we do reps of red zone period and throwing the ball. I think it’s just a matter of just continuing. The more at-bats we get, the better we’ll do."
As the preseason continues, criticism of Manuel has increased, and he's well aware of it. The pressures of playing quarterback in the NFL are high, and even higher when representing a team that is enduring the longest active playoff drought in the league. Still, Manuel says the only way he'll respond to his critics, is by playing well and continuing to get better.
"I’m just focusing on getting better," Manuel said. "As I get better, our team will get better. Offensively, I think we’re doing a great job. Every night we’re coming out here and if we compare our practices from last week to how they were our first week, they’re night and day. We went out and competed great versus the Steelers in Latrobe. I thought we did pretty well in the game. Obviously we want to score but nonetheless, we’re on the right track as far as getting where we want to be as an offense."
Manuel's optimism may be frustrating for Bills fans who are eager to see immediate results from a second-year quarterback, but it's still the preseason. The Bills will play Tampa Bay on Saturday in the official third week of the preseason. Manuel and his unit will likely play the entire first half and possibly the first drive or two of the second half. Bills fans will be looking for Manuel to show serious progress against a team he struggled against last season, and if he doesn't, the criticism will only intensify.
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