Two rookies look to extend to tradition of instant success
The past few NFL seasons have been full of rookie quarterbacks making a big impact right at the start of the season, and becoming stars in the league right away. But is this trend going to repeat in a year many considered to have the weakest quarterback draft class in years? Nobody will know the answer until the season starts, but based on the talent of two young quarterbacks, and the situation they are heading into training camp, Geno Smith and or EJ Manuel could continue the trend of dominating rookie quarterbacks.
Manuel, quarterback Florida State, was the 16 overall pick by the Buffalo Bill, and as a surprise to most he was the first quarterback taken in the draft. Manuel is often described as a quarterback with raw talent just waiting to get molded into an NFL quarterback. He possesses great athleticism as well as a strong arm to make throws to all parts of the field and squeeze the ball into tight windows.
Manuel has also shown that he has the leadership, toughness, and character to strive in big moments. This was shown through his success as a replacement for the injured Christian Ponder during his first two years leading the Seminoles to two bowl game victories. As a starter during his junior and senior years he struggled at times but was still able to win two more bowl games. During his junior campaign he showed his toughness when in the Champ Sports Bowl he played with a broken leg. His senior year also showed his character by being able to stay focused on football while his mom was battling cancer.
He still has room to improve with his game particularly with his turnover rate, and his accuracy on the short passes. When throwing the ball on short routes he often misses a little high or low, preventing the receiver to make a play after the catch.
Heading into training camp in Buffalo, he is in a fair running against Kevin Kolb for the starting position. Kolb has more experience and may win the job simply for that reason, but the Bills spent a high pick on Manuel meaning they expect to keep him around for the long run, so don’t be surprised to see him win the starting job come August.
Smith, QB West Virginia, seems to fit the profile of other mobile quarterbacks who have come into the league recently and had success. Smith is fast, athletic, and strong. He is able to make quick decisions down the field, but he will also look to his third or fourth option if needed. He makes good decisions about when to stay in the pocket and when to make a play downfield with his legs. Over his college career his accuracy continued to improve, and he showed the work ethic to improve his game.
However one of the biggest question marks are the decline of his play at the end of the season, and his refusal to participate in the senior bowl. He also will have to prove he can play from under center, and needs to improve on blitz recognition. When faced with the blitz he doesn’t always step up to make a throw, or make a play with his feet, he often backs away from the pressure leading to a bigger sack.
Smith is in a three way quarterback battle this off season with Greg McElroy and Mark Sanchez. It is a toss up who will win the job, but going into training camp all three have a seemingly fair shot. Sanchez has the most experience but his poor play over the last few years may finally cause him to lose the starting job. McElroy had won the job last year and played decent until getting hurt, so Coach Rex Ryan may decide to give him another chance.
Looking at these two quarterbacks it is hard to determine if either of them will have rookie success especially since neither one has won the starting job. However if both players get to start, Manuel will have more success right away because he is in a better situation. The Bills have a strong running game with Fred Jackson, and CJ Spiller which will help take pressure off of a young quarterback. The Jets are currently in the midst of what appears to be long rebuilding phase so Smith would most likely struggle to find his stride early on, especially with the looming thought of losing the starting job at one mishap.