Once, E.J. Manuel was the quarterback of the future for the Buffalo Bills. Now, with the Bills in his past, he’s embracing a new role with the Oakland Raiders.
The 6-foot-5 Manuel, the 16th overall pick of the Bills out of Florida State in 2013, earned a starting job as a rookie, but his playing time gradually decreased from 2014 to 2016.
Last season, he started just once and appeared in six games, completing just 11-of-26 throws for 131 yards. After signing with the Raiders this offseason, he’s starting fresh as the presumed backup to Derek Carr. Manuel and second-year QB Connor Cook will compete for the No. 2 job.
“I’m on this team now and my focus is moving forward, each and every day, coming out with the same attitude to get better, not take anything for granted,” Manuel told reporters at Raiders training camp in Napa Sunday afternoon.
Jerry McDonald, who covers the Raiders for the Bay Area News Group, reported Manuel has looked smooth and confident in early camp practices. Offensive coordinator Todd Downing, who worked with Manuel previously in Buffalo, has had Manuel playing with the second- and third-team offensive units, noted McDonald, but will get his chances with the first team, too.
“You can’t take anything for granted, man,” Manuel told McDonald. “This is a cut-throat league and when you get opportunities you’ve got to show what you can do and take advantage of it.”
Though Manuel has struggled with the Bills the past three seasons, he’s at times shown he can be a very effective quarterback. The Raiders decided to bring him in to give them better depth, especially in light of the Raiders’ woes late last season after the injury to Carr, when Matt McGloin (now gone) and Cook couldn’t move the team.
Manuel has a 6-11 record as a starter, with a 58.3 completion percentage and 19 touchdown passes versus 15 interceptions.
Manuel knows he needs to be the Raiders’ insurance policy for Carr.
“We have a great team, especially offensively,” Manuel told Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com. “But Derek’s the quarterback, so this is his show. And however I can help him, assist him, that’s what I’m here to do.”
The Raiders’ first exhibition game is scheduled for Aug. 12 in Arizona vs. the Cardinals.