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BILLS: Why I’m Confident Going into This One

Posted Sep 18, 2013

Transcripts of EJ Manuel's and Doug Marrone's conference calls with Jets reporters on Wednesday afternoon:

BILLS QB EJ MANUEL

On what he sees from the Jets defense...

I see a very fast defense, a lot of guys who have played in the league for quite a bit with a lot of experience, a lot of veteran guys. And I see a lot of multiple looks as far as guys lining up in different places, guys walking around, and that makes it a little difficult at times. But the good thing is we see it on film so we’ll be prepared for it.

On the easiest part of making his transition to the NFL and the most challenging part...

I wouldn’t say there’s necessarily anything easy about making the transition from college to the pros, but I would say the best thing for me has been having a great supporting cast of my head coach, my offensive coordinator as well as the veteran guys on our team really helping a lot of us rookies come along. Whether it was the learning curve or whether it was just fitting in with the team, those guys made it a lot easier for us.

On how helpful defensive coordinator Mike Pettine been in providing a scouting report of the Jets...

Coach Pettine’s been huge, not just this week with the Jets. Obviously their defenses are extremely similar. But other than that he’s given us great looks on defense each week preparing for the teams we’re going to play against so that’s why I’m very confident going into this one.

On anything specific Pettine’s given him about Jets players or personnel this week...

I talked to him but there’s not anything specific that we can’t see on film.

On how well he knows Geno Smith if at all...

I know Geno pretty well. I met him when we were in high school at one of the camps and obviously he was in Florida playing and I was in Virginia during high school. But we kept up during college and we’ll check in every now and then.

On the perception during the draft that he went higher than people thought he might and Smith went lower...

No, it doesn’t. I think we’re both rooting for each other. Obviously this weekend we’re going to be competing against each other, there’s no doubt about that. But I think we were both happy for each other when draft day came.

On how rare it is for two black quarterbacks to be starting against each other...

One of the reporters here in Buffalo brought it to my attention and I simply told him that like you said, a few decades ago that wasn’t a thought in a lot of people’s minds or football fans’ minds. So I’m very happy to see that things have changed and African American quarterbacks get an opportunity to go out here and lead a team.

On the key to his 68 percent passing accuracy...

I think the biggest thing is understanding your reads, really your progressions more than your reads. If you stick to that and stick to the coaching, I think that’s where a lot of the accuracy comes and having your body in line to throw the ball accurately whenever it comes into play.

On challenges of running an up-tempo offense...

I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge. I think when I first got here it was a challenge as far as learning it, trying to learn first off a playbook and then trying to do it at a fast tempo and fast pace. I think the best way to learn is to actually get out there and do it. Obviously in OTAs and training camp I had a lot of time to get a lot of reps and over that time became accustomed to it and I love it now.

On getting hurt in training camp and how h e made up for lost time...

When I was injured, a majority of time was spent getting rehab and treatment and my knee back in shape so I could be back for Week 1 or whenever, as soon as possible. But nonetheless, you definitely spend more time in the film room, a lot more 1-on-1 time with Coach [Nate] Hackett and things like that with my OC and just making sure I’m not missing a beat even if I can’t move around like I normally would physically.

On what interaction if any he had with the Jets leading up to the draft...

I had quite a bit. I met with Coach Ryan and a lot of their staff. I went up to the facility for a visit and liked it a lot up there. Their facility is beautiful and I really thought the coaches liked me a lot and it just so happens they didn’t choose me. They had those first two picks before the Bills did at 16, but nonetheless I thought Coach Ryan was a great coach when I met with him.

On thinking before the draft that the Jets were one of the teams he thought he'd go to...

Definitely, I did think they were one of the teams interested in me. And they just wanted to wait and go with a quarterback in the second round instead of with their first two picks.

On the challenges of a Rex Ryan defense...

I think just identifying. Identifying who’s going to be the Mike and who’s going to be this or who’s going to be that as far as your protections. That’s where they pose a lot of differences. But other than that it’s still a base coverage. Once you can get the protection part you’ll be fine.

On extra motivation for this game to justify being the first QB drafted this year...

No, sir. There isn’t.

On how much up-tempo offense he ran at Florida State and the adjustment to the pros...

We ran it a little bit. We mixed it in. We called in NASCAR when we wanted to go fast or run plays at a higher pace. It just depended on how we wanted to attack that defense that week.

On how much of a sense he's gotten that the Buffalo franchise and the region are hungry for a winning football team...

The city is very hungry for winners. I think this is a great place to be, not just as a football player but just to live. I think the community is all in for the Bills and as long as we continue to do well and make them proud, they’ll be happy.

On the possibility of being compared to Geno Smith for a long time...

Not really. When we talk it’s not necessarily about competing with each other, it’s a "How are you doing?" He told me "good game" after my first preseason game and I said "get healthy" when he hurt his ankle in one of his. I think we’ll obviously be competing against each other and I want to win just as bad as he does, so it’s not that we’re competing against each other like the media try to make it.

On if it's fair to compare him and Smith...

That’s really not up to me as far as what’s fair and what’s not because it’s going to happen anyway. I think it’s just up to whoever wants to do the comparing. That’s their opinion.

On if he was rooting for Smith to win the Jets' starting job...

I was more focused on trying to win mine. Obviously I want Geno to have success, but a lot of my thoughts were on going in and trying to win my competition.

On if he and Smith were ever on the same recruiting trips during high school...

No, sir. I think I came out the year before Geno.

On how big a confidence booster the game-winning drive vs. Carolina was...

It was very big, not just for me but for our whole team. I think the biggest thing was we wanted to win the game. Obviously development, that’s going to happen each and every rep. I think the ultimate thing was that we didn’t back down when everything looked like we couldn’t win and we didn’t give up as an offense. The defense held Carolina to two field goals, so we had a chance to win it at the end of the game so I really think it was development thing for the team and the coaches.

BILLS HEAD COACH DOUG MARRONE

On where EJ Manuel is in terms of his development as the Bills QB...

Obviously we’ve made and he’s made some mistakes out there that we’re trying to get corrected. But like I’ve said before, our expectations for him were high coming in, so we just keep pushing him.

On being a rookie NFL head coach picking a quarterback who many felt "wasn't supposed to go that high" in the draft...

Well, as a rookie NFL head coach, I’ve been in the league before which leads me up to the story of when I was with New Orleans and I was thinking to myself if I ever have the opportunity to be a coach in the NFL, hopefully I don’t have to pick a quarterback, and that’s the situation I fell right in to. To answer your question, I don’t really look at the draft as what a lot of other people may say. I just watch the film and put a grade and a value on them and let our scouting department and our general manager make the decision on when and where to take them because that’s the one thing I know I’m not an expert at, where they go in the draft. I can only say which players I like and put them in order.

On what in particular impressed him about Manuel...

In college at Florida State? There were a couple things I saw that I liked, but there’s always going to be pluses and minuses. What I think was very beneficial with us is Russ Brandon and Mr. [Ralph] Wilson, the owner, gave us the ability, myself, Buddy Nix, Doug Whaley, Nate Hackett, we spent a lot of time with all the quarterbacks that were coming out. Meaning that not only did we meet with them up here but we were able to go out to dinner with them, have private workouts with them, able to spend a lot of time with them.

In that time, some of the things we saw on film, whether it be footwork, releases, progressions, whatever it may be, we wanted to go through and see how they would do it on the field and see if it was correctable and coachable. Anything that we saw as a negative out of EJ were those types of things. They’d be coachable and correctable and they seem to be going that way.

On if Manuel is his QB week to week similar to Geno Smith being the Jets' QB week to week, and if not, why...

I can’t speak at all about anyone else’s situation, I just want to make that clear. But our situation was we came in to camp and obviously Kevin Kolb was brought in here as a veteran and obviously we drafted EJ and we’re excited about Jeff Tuel. A lot of teams bring four in. We thought we needed to bring three to make sure we can get the younger players ready. That was a decision I made strategically going in, that I went to Doug Whaley about, and it almost bit us because we had the injuries and we had to bring two players in right before that last game.

My philosophy has always been that the players know I was looking at one of the quarterbacks to separate themselves where the players can rally around and say he’s our quarterback. The reason I say that is because the players need to prove it on the field and I think EJ proved that, not only during practice, where he really accelerated due to the unfortunate circumstances of what happened with Kevin and his injury and then he was able to play in the preseason at what we feel is a good high level and I think he earned that job. That’s why he’s our starting quarterback.

On things in Smith's game that he feels the Bills can exploit...

I don’t think so. Obviously we competed against each other when he was in college and then I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time together when we were working out the quarterbacks and I was extremely impressed with him. Putting the film back on again, I see the same type of development. Marty [Mornhinweg] and the rest of the crew on the offensive side have done a very good job with him. I see him as really progressing, I see him as being a lot better and really developing in to a fine quarterback for this league.

On what he sees in Smith that has changed since college...

I just think the system really helps him. Not having researched the system he was in in college, it’s easy for me to talk well about the system. It’s a system that I obviously had success in, the type of offense he’s in now. I just see him being more comfortable. He’s always been able to make every throw, he’s always had a high level of accuracy. I see him going through progressions, I see him talking with protection. You’re seeing that he's developing into a fine quarterback. He’s going to create some challenges for our defense.

On if his defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine, is helping him this week with the Jets' scheme and personnel...

They have to worry about stopping the Jets’ offense and we have to worry about going against a defense that for the last five years has been a top-ranked defense. I’ve competed against Rex [Ryan] before and they always play hard, they always create a lot of challenges for you. Basically my conversations with Mike, and it's not hidden stuff, it's how do they break things down? We look at it more from that standpoint than anything else. We focus on ourselves and know that things may change and things may go a different way. We need to be able to adjust as things go on.

On the injuries in his secondary and if he's happy with how his DBs have been playing...

I’m extremely happy with how our secondary has responded. There have been a couple different packages, but when you lose someone like Stephon Gilmore, who we really think the world of as a top corner, that obviously hurts. I have to give them credit, Justin Rogers has gone in there and he’s done a really nice job and we’re playing with a free agent nickel in Nickell Robey from USC. I think he’s done a very good job.

Jairus Byrd is working very hard to come back, Aaron Williams is a first-year player, Jimmy Leonhard, who has played for Buffalo and New York, is back there with us with [Da’Norris Searcy], and Leodis [McKelvin] we’re getting very good production out of from where he was the year before. I’m happy with the way they’re playing.

On how sustainable his up-tempo offense is if it puts pressure on his defense...

We’re just trying to create better opportunities for us on offense. Really, at the end of the day that’s what we’re concerned about. We’ll see how it goes. We can do a lot of different things. We can huddle, we can slow it down. There’s a lot of different ways we can do it. Right now we’re just trying to do it the best we can to score points.

On if Mario Williams is back to being the Mario of old...

I wasn’t here, I can only talk about my relationship with him while he was here and maybe my relationship when he was coming out because obviously I was with New Orleans and we had the second pick so we were able to look at him quite a bit. Competed against him in Houston and I thought he did a very good job against us, and then practiced against him for three days when I was in New Orleans and he was in Houston. I had a lot of respect for him as a complete player.

When I came here for the veteran minicamp, he was really playing at a high level, just full speed, running around. Then he had a condition in his foot and he wasn’t going to come out of practice, he was going to stick with it, which is something we all appreciate as coaches from our players. We had to make decisions in training camp and I told him, "You need to shoot me straight," and I made the decision to rest him and sit him down. I’m still seeing that player I saw at minicamp running around going a hundred miles an hour.

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