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Raiders TE: EJ Manuel 'didn't have what he has now'

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The Buffalo Bills drafted EJ Manuel in the first round in 2013 and proceeded to start him 10 games his rookie season. The inefficient quarterback saw the playing field less and less as time progressed, first getting benched for Kyle Orton then watching Tyrod Taylor take the reins. The Bills let him walk this offseason.

After signing with the Oakland Raiders as a backup, Manuel will now be asked to stand in for Derek Carr, who is dealing with a back injury, starting with Sunday's tilt versus the Baltimore Ravens.

Raiders tight end Lee Smith spent two years with Manuel in Buffalo (2013-2014). Lee sees a difference in the quarterback and believes the weapons Oakland can deploy will aid the quarterback this time around.

"EJ didn't come into the greatest situation years ago in Buffalo," Smith said, via NBC Sports Bay Area. "We were in a building process up there, and we didn't have Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree and Jared Cook. Not to say we were terrible back then, but he didn't have what he has now.

"He was a 22-year old man with great expectations as a first-round draft pick. It wasn't the best situation for him, but he always handled things like a pro. He's a good quarterback and he's a good man. I'd let him babysit my kids."

[Sidebar: Did Smith just offer Manuel a side job?]

Throwing to Cooper, Crabtree, and Cook, is, by any metric an upgrade over what Manuel had his rookie year. During 2013 tight end Scott Chandler led the team with 53 catches for 655 yards. Neither of his top wideouts, Stevie Johnson or Robert Woods, surpassed 600 yards.

Part of the Bills' struggles stemmed from Manuel's wayward accuracy, inability to stretch the field, and green understanding of defenses. He never improved as a passer in Buffalo.

In his brief replacement of Carr last week, Manuel displayed quick decision making and wasn't afraid to let it loose. It's much different, however, entering a game mid-comeback than having to lead from the start.

It's a job Smith believes Manuel can handle this time.

"The front office has done a great job of putting a veteran leader in every position group," Smith said. "All of us have to manage our own rooms and do our jobs. Farm your own land. There's no need to fix the world as far as football's concerned.

"Everybody needs to do their job, and we'll be just fine. Nobody needs to try and be a hero now that Derek's down. The guy didn't retire. He's still here. He'll still be here to lead us. His presence will still be felt. If he's not on the field this week, next week, however long he's gone, we'll be fine if we do our jobs."

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