Two rookie quarterbacks started in the AFC East in the NFL’s Week One this past weekend. Geno Smith led the New York Jets to victory in his first start over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. E.J. Manuel tried to rally the Buffalo Bills but wasn’t able to make up for his team’s mistakes. From what I have observed, Manuel is the better quarterback; however, because he was harder to acquire and cost more than Smith, the Jets got the better value. Each quarterback has a number of pros and cons, some of which I break down here.
Manuel had a fantastic first game, throwing for 150 yards and two touchdowns on 66.7 percent passing. He also scrambled for 23 yards on three attempts. I wasn’t at all surprised as I had observed him at the Bills training camp at St. John Fisher College over the summer. He was very accurate during the offseason, completing anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of his passes each day. Moreover, a good number of his incompletions result from drops, which is the fault of his receivers.
In last Sunday’s game on Sept. 8, Manuel was able to lead his team down field and score just before the half. He also had a few other good plays, including one in which he escaped a sack and completed a pass to receiver Stevie Johnson. Despite all of his heroics, Manuel couldn’t make up for his team’s penalties. It should be noted that Manuel also didn’t run as much as he will be able to once he fully recovers from his lingering meniscus injury.
Overall, what should be taken away from last week’s game is this: Manuel keeps cool when he plays, is very methodical, and understands his own limitations.
Smith is not as developed as Manuel, but he definitely has the potential to improve significantly. Last week, he threw for 256 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, completing 63 percent of his passes. In addition to throwing an interception, Smith also made the mistake of not knowing when to throw the ball away, which resulted in huge losses of yards.
Another rookie mistake was trying to call a time out before the two-minute warning. He was, however, able to get downfield before the half ended. Smith also made some very accurate throws, including several on the run. The most impressive part of Smith’s day came with 40 seconds left in the game. He was able to get the Jets within field goal range by passing and running out of bounds and drawing a 15-yard penalty on linebacker Lavonte David. The Jets were able to eke out a one-point win against the Buccaneers because of Smith’s smart play.
The reason that Smith is a better deal is that the Jets used a second round pick on him in this year’s NFL draft and the Bills used their first round pick, the sixteenth overall, to get Manuel. This also means that Smith has a smaller contract; Smith is only receiving $5 million over four years, while Manuel is set to receive $8.9 million over the same period. In other words, Manuel is performing as expected, while Smith looks to be a steal for the Jets.
Ondo is a member of the class of 2014.