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Analytics site shows EJ Manuel is NFL's least-accurate passer

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills essentially are into evaluation phase for the rest of the season.

No player needs to absorb experience over the last four games more than rookie quarterback EJ Manuel.

The Bills and their weary fans still are learning about Manuel, who missed four games while recovering from a knee injury. He has looked good at times, and showed a flair for the dramatic with his game-winning touchdown drive against the Carolina Panthers in Week Two.

But one area of concern is his accuracy. Analytics site ProFootballFocus.com says Manuel has been the NFL's least-accurate passer this year.

Manuel ranks dead last out of the 30 quarterbacks who've handled at least 50 percent of their teams' pass plays. When the field is broadened to include quarterbacks who've handled 25 percent of their teams' pass plays, he is tied for 36th out of 38, ahead of only St. Louis Rams backup Kellen Clemens.

PFF's "quarterback accuracy percentage" metric takes a deeper look than standard completion percentage.

PFF gives the passer credit for dropped passes and does not consider the following incompletions: throwaways, spikes, batted passes or attempts while being hit.

Manuel's adjusted accuracy percentage is 66.4 percent, two-tenths of a percent worse than that of New York Jets rookie Geno Smith, who has completed 29 passes over his past four games.

On Manuel's 249 attempts, PFF counts 15 drops (he gets credit for a completion on those) plus two throwaways, one batted pass and four while being hit (he doesn't get faulted for any of those).

PFF's data tags Bills receiver Stevie Johnson for a team-high five drops, although that total also includes passes thrown by Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel. Tight end Scott Chandler and receiver Robert Woods have four drops apiece.

But Manuel is in decent company at the bottom of PFF's chart. Tom Brady is ranked 20th, Colin Kaepernick 24th, Andrew Luck 25th, Eli Manning 26th and Joe Flacco 27th.

Aaron Rodgers ranks first, followed by Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees.

Points after: Bills 37, Jets 14

6556026  McCoy Sports Bills

By Tim Graham

Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' decisive victory over the New York Jets in Ralph Wilson Stadium ...

What it means: The Bills snapped a three-game losing streak and avenged an ugly Week Three loss to the Jets. The Bills still are in the AFC East basement at 4-7, but they have to feel good about how they played. Bills rookie EJ Manuel returns to "future franchise quarterback" material (for the time being, anyway) with a strong bounce-back performance.

Players of the game: Bills safety Jairus Byrd and defensive tackle Kyle Williams were studs. Byrd had a sack and two interceptions. He dropped Geno Smith on a third-and-3 play in the second quarter to forcing a punt and grabbed an interception for the second straight week to set up a field goal right before halftime. He picked off another in the third quarter. Williams had two sacks in the first half and forced a fumble to set up a touchdown.

Manuel transmission: Geno Smith won the rookie QB showdown in the first game, but Manuel was far superior today. Manuel was 20 of 28 for 245 yards and two TDs with no interceptions. Smith completed eight of his 23 yards for 103 yards and no TDs with three interceptions and a lost fumble. Matt Simms replaced Smith with 12:55 left in the game.

Play of the game: After the Jets scored their first touchdown to make it 20-7 in the third quarter, Manuel responded with a 43-yard strike to Marquise Goodwin and put the Jets back in their place.

Milestone TD: Bills fullback Frank Summers, playing in his 13th NFL game since he got drafted in 2009, scored on a 1-yard run in the second quarter. It was the first TD of his career.

Preliminary injury report: Fred Jackson writhed on the ground 2:27 into the second half with an apparent left knee injury. He returned to the game on the next series. ... Defensive tackle Kyle Williams went to the locker room with 7:18 left in the third quarter but came back quickly after getting retaped.

Coming up: The Bills are on their bye week. They will return to action Dec. 1 against the Atlanta Falcons in Toronto.

Bills secondary notably stronger for Jets rematch

By Tim Graham

The last time he played the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith had a pleasant afternoon.

Although Smith threw a pair of interceptions, he passed for 331 yards (merely 39 yards short of the series record despite just 16 completions) and two touchdowns. Smith ran for a touchdown, too. The Bills couldn't sack him.

The Bills should look different to Smith on Sunday in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The Bills were missing two vital members of their secondary in Week Three. They'll have cornerback Stephon Gilmore and safety Jairus Byrd for the rematch.

"Byrd is a ball-hawking safety, Pro Bowl-type safety," Smith said Wednesday. "They play a ton of man. So having Gilmore back, their starting corner, obviously makes them a better defense.

"And they've been pretty stout up front. So just having a chance to have those guys back gives them, I think, better guys in that secondary, which really helps their defense out because that's the style that they play."

Buffalo starting cornerbacks at the Meadowlands were Leodis McKelvin and Justin Rogers. McKelvin hurt his hamstring on the opening drive. That forced starting safety Aaron Williams to switch to cornerback.

"So they've got three guys that are different than what we faced the last game," Jets coach Rex Ryan said.

Byrd grabbed his first interception of the season -- and the Bills' first takeaway in three games -- Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Gilmore has been extraordinarily busy the past two weeks.

ProFootballFocus.com data shows the Kansas City Chiefs targeted him 12 times and the Steelers targeted him 11 times. They completed 65.1 percent of their passes for 167 yards (59 after the catch) and a touchdown and a 101.2 passer rating.

Jets receiver Jeremy Kerley is expected to be out with a bum elbow, but Santonio Holmes (five catches for 154 yards and a touchdown in Week Three) practiced fully Wednesday and should play after missing five games with a hamstring injury.

Tight end Kellen Winslow (no catches in Week Three) is returning from a four-game performance-enhancing-drug suspension. Tight end Zach Sudfeld has been added since the last meeting and has four catches for 56 yards the past two weeks.

"They're getting guys back on their defense with Byrd and Gilmore," Smith said. "So it's definitely going to be another challenge for us, but we can create matchups with having Kellen and Jeff [Cumberland] and even Zach and then Tone, Stephen [Hill], all the guys that we are accustomed to having.

"They can make plays for us and it just gives us a better chance, I think."

Bills use byzantine stat to put EJ Manuel in select QB company

By Tim Graham

Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel is coming off a shabby performance. He said he wasn't rusty.

So apparently he just didn't have what it took Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that surrendered 55 points a week earlier.

Bills observers wonder if Manuel has what it takes. But Bills coach Doug Marrone has been adamant Manuel will be a good NFL quarterback. The team's media staff this week has compared Manuel with Carolina Panthers star Cam Newton.

There seems to be a concerted effort to make sure the club rallies around Manuel.

Marrone had a favorable Manuel stat ready for today's news conference at One Bills Drive.

"To put things in perspective," Marrone said, "and I think it's important, and everyone knows he's our starting quarterback and there's no problem there ... But when you look at quarterbacks with five starts and you go back to 2000 with all the young quarterbacks, he has the third-best rating out of all those quarterbacks."

This is true, albeit convoluted and not all that relevant.

Among quarterbacks who threw at least 150 passes through their first five starts in Weeks One through Five, Manuel's 79.4 passer rating is third to Newton's 84.3 and New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith's 80.3 from the 2000 season onward.

This would not include any quarterback such as Ben Roethlisberger, who didn't start as a rookie on opening day, let alone any quarterback such as Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers, who served as backups before taking over.

The others in Marrone's top 10 -- based on data from Pro-Football-Reference.com -- include Andy Dalton (78.7), Chris Weinke (74.0), Andrew Luck (72.0), Ryan Tannehill (70.4), Sam Bradford (66.5), Brandon Weeden (64.5) and Carson Palmer (59.6).

Manuel's three interceptions are fewest among the group, but his 150 attempts and 985 yards also were the fewest. His 56.7 completion percentage ranked sixth.

Mario Williams: Thin secondary makes D-line feel 'a lot of stress'

Mario Williams - McCoy
Bills defensive end Mario Williams said the thin defensive backfield adds a lot of stress. (File photo by James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

By Tim Graham

The Baltimore Ravens have shown a substandard offense through three games.

The Ravens enter Sunday's game versus the Buffalo Bills ranked 30th in total offense, 25th in rushing offense and 20th in passing offense.

Then again, the New York Jets looked pedestrian before thrashing the Bills' defense Sunday.

Buffalo's secondary was vulnerable at the Meadowlands. When cornerback Leodis McKelvin left the game with a hamstring injury on the first series, the added strain impacted the entire defense.

Continue reading "Mario Williams: Thin secondary makes D-line feel 'a lot of stress'" »

Bills found way to lose Sunday that had been unseen for 62 years

By Tim Graham

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When I spoke to eight-time Pro Bowl guard Stevie Wisniewski for my NFL Sunday story about overcoming penalties, he shared with me a stat from when he was a coaching intern for John Harbaugh at Stanford.

"If you're minus-one or minus-two in turnovers and also have a net difference of over 30 yards in penalties," Wisniewski said, "it's about impossible to win a game. That doesn't matter who you're playing."

Wisniewski couldn't recall the exact number, but said he thought teams lose 98 percent of the time they're overmatched in penalties and turnovers like that.

Continue reading "Bills found way to lose Sunday that had been unseen for 62 years" »

Points after: Jets 27, Bills 20

916379 McCoy Sports Bill#21

By Tim Graham

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' loss to New York Jets at the Meadowlands ...

What it means: The Bills had an opportunity to make a statement about their status in the AFC East with a lackluster performance against a beatable team that committed an absurd number of penalties. The Bills are 1-2 overall and 0-2 in the division.

Play of the game: Geno Smith placed a perfectly thrown pass into Santonio Holmes' hands down the right sideline for a 69-yard touchdown with 9:23 to play. Bills cornerback Justin Rogers, in over his head the entire game, was in coverage.

Sequence of the game: With an eight-point lead and the Bills starting out on their 20-yard line early in the fourth quarter, the Jets couldn't challenge an EJ Manuel fumble that had been ruled down by contact and committed penalties on four straight plays (one wiped out a Fred Jackson lost fumble) before Manuel connected with tight end Scott Chandler for a 33-yard touchdown. Stevie Johnson caught a two-point conversion pass to tie the score.

Jets player of the game: Smith was 16 of 29 for 331 yards and two long touchdowns with two interceptions. He also ran for an 8-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

Bills player of the game: Dan Carpenter made field goals from 37, 23, 43 and 26 yards without a miss.

Rookie QB showdown: In the first installment of what both teams hope to be a long rivalry, Smith was better. Manuel was 18 of 38 for 231 yards and one touchdown with zero interceptions. Manuel ran for 40 yards but was sacked seven times, thrice in the third quarter alone.

Stat line of the game: Bills running back C.J. Spiller left the game with a knee injury in the third quarter after 10 carries for 9 yards and one reception for 1 yard.

Run of the game: Seemingly stopped on a third-and-1 play at the end of the first quarter, Jackson spun away from the pile and ran past a few Jets defenders who assumed the play was over. Jackson was tackled 59 yards later.

Penalty report: The Jets had an astounding 20 penalties for 168 yards. The Bills were sharp early, but flags eventually cost them here and there. They were penalized seven times for 87 yards. On the final drive of the first half, the Bills committed two penalties to help the Jets get close enough for a field goal.

Preliminary injury report: In addition to Spiller's knee injury, Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin left the game on the opening drive with a hamstring injury. Aaron Williams moved from safety to corner, and Jim Leonhard handled punt return duties. ... Right guard Kraig Urbik left in the second quarter with a knee injury and was replaced by Sam Young. ... Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus limped back to the locker room with a right ankle injury in the third quarter and didn't return. ... Defensive end Alex Carrington was carted off the field with an apparent left leg injury with 70 seconds to play.

Coming up: The Bills return home to play the Baltimore Ravens at 1 p.m. Sunday. It'll be a short week after that, with a Thursday night road game against the Cleveland Browns.

Rich Gannon on EJ Manuel's start: 'That is what they need in Buffalo'

EJ Manuel and Geno Smith
Rich Gannon, who will work Sunday's game for CBS Sports, shared his thoughts on the Bills' EJ Manuel and the Jets' Geno Smith.

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills had their choice of any quarterback in this year's draft class.

They identified EJ Manuel as their man and were comfortable enough that nobody else would take him that they moved back in the draft order before taking him 16th overall.

Sunday at the Meadowlands, Manuel will duel the New York Jets rookie many draft analysts expected to be the first quarterback off the board, Geno Smith.

Rich Gannon will work Sunday's game for CBS Sports and shared his thoughts on both quarterbacks.

On EJ Manuel:

"Last year we got spoiled with some of the young rookie quarterbacks coming in and playing so well -- RGIII, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck. E.J. Manuel has handled himself well and in a difficult situation Week One against the Patriots and in a tough one against Carolina last week, but they found a way to pull it out.

"They've been patient with him in terms of the game plan. They've tried to scale it down and really focus in on things he does well. He is a guy that can make every throw and is a terror when he runs the ball because he's a lot faster than his frame would indicate.

"He's off to a terrific start. This is what they need in Buffalo: production and consistency at the quarterback position. He can handle the role of being the face of the franchise, which is amazing."

On Geno Smith:

"Is he really ready to play right now? The answer is, 'No,' but necessary with the Sanchez situation. He has his weaknesses and makes some poor throws, but he's very athletic and he gives the Jets a chance to win.

"You have to take the good with the bad with some of these young players. He has some play-making ability. He is mobile and going to force defenses to account for his duel-threat capabilities with his ability to run, particularly out on the edge. But he clearly has a ways to go to learn a very complicated system that Marty Mornhinweg is going to run in New York."

Bill Belichick's Patriots are 13-4 against rookie quarterbacks

By Tim Graham

Read the rest of this blog entry with knowledge that Kevin Kolb beat the New England Patriots last year.

That said, Boston Herald reporter Jeff Howe produced some interesting data about the Patriots coach Bill Belichick's success against rookie quarterbacks in light of Wednesday's announcements from their first two opponents.

The Patriots will face Buffalo Bills rookie EJ Manuel on Sunday and New York Jets rookie Geno Smith four nights later.

Since Belichick became Patriots coach in 2000, they have gone 13-4 against rookie quarterbacks. That .765 winning percentage is nearly 200 percentage points above the league's combined record against rookie quarterbacks over that span and 42 percentage points higher than the Patriots' record against non-rookie quarterbacks.

One of the Patriots' losses was last year, when Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes in a 24-23 Seattle Seahawks home victory.

Howe also passed along rookie quarterbacks have completed 53.9 percent of their passes for an average of 206.3 yards a game with 16 touchdowns and 25 interceptions.

Versus rookies making their NFL debuts, the Patriots are 4-0.

Bills draft picks could be legit Rookie of the Year candidates

By Tim Graham

This just in from the Unnecessary Added Expectations Department ...

The Buffalo Bills probably have two of the top preseason candidates for 2013 offensive rookie of the year: quarterback EJ Manuel and receiver Robert Woods.

Since the award's inception in 1967, a quarterback, running back or wide receiver has won the award every year. This year's draft was heavy on offensive linemen and feather-light on quarterbacks and running backs in the early rounds.

Continue reading "Bills draft picks could be legit Rookie of the Year candidates" »

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham | tgraham@buffnews.com


Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan | mgaughan@buffnews.com


Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski | jskurski@buffnews.com

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