On Friday's "Around The League Podcast," Gregg Rosenthal suggested the difference in Sunday's intra-division battle between the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills might come down to "which rookie quarterback can possibly do less."
Geno Smith's best game was against the Bills in Week 3, and he welcomes Santonio Holmes and Kellen Winslow back this week. On the flip side, Manuel will be tasked with moving the ball minus starting wide receivers Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods.
An inconsistent Smith has shown flashes of potential as one of the league's better vertical passers. He's also proven capable of moving the offense in the all-important two-minute drill. Manuel, on the other hand, has struggled even as he's been propped up by a strong ground attack.
Watching Manuel's Week 10 performance on Game Rewind, I was immediately struck by his habit of staring down his first read before settling for a check down. He's managed to avoid turnovers due to this penchant, but it also led to a minuscule 3.97 yards per attempt average against the Steelers -- a figure that is worse than 97 percent of all single-game performances in the NFL over the past four seasons.
As NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell is wont to say, Manuel is a "see it, throw it" passer. There's little anticipation to his game. He waits for his receivers to break open before he pulls the trigger.
Manuel's footwork and mechanics are also a work in progress. On plays in which he has tested the defense, Manuel's ball placement has been exceptionally erratic. His accuracy on throws of 20-plus yards is 33rd out of 36 qualifying quarterbacks, according to Pro Football Focus.
That's not to say Manuel can't develop into a franchise quarterback with the proper guidance from a quality coaching staff. At this point in their respective rookie seasons, though, Smith is the more advanced passer.