No team wants to lose their starter during the season. But if you’re going to do it, the best case scenario would be to have a player comfortable with the team and the staff already. In that regard, EJ Manuel and the Raiders are in a pretty good position.
Manuel will be asked to replace Derek Carr for the next 2-6 while Carr recovers from a fracture in his back. What he’s stepping into is a team that has a few players who he knows and who know him very well.
First and foremost is Todd Downing, who was his quarterbacks coach in Buffalo in 2014 and who took over as offensive coordinator for the Raiders this offseason and wanted his guy to join him in Oakland.
“Todd worked with him previously when he got his starts in Buffalo. So, I think those are all factors that help.
It doesn’t stop there, however. Manuel and his center Rodney Hudson attended Florida State together for two seasons in 2009-10. The chemistry between quarterback and center is vital. Knowing the man who is snapping you the ball and calling out defenses for you is of great value.
“It helps a lot,” Manuel said Wednesday. “Knowing ‘Hud’ [Hudson] since I was 18 years old at Florida State and obviously knowing TD since the draft process and everything. It’s been awesome for me. Not just in this instance, but since I’ve been here as a Raider. Having familiar faces around and obviously, my teammates accepting me and bringing me on board as well. There’s not too much unfamiliarity. I think we’re ready to go.”
Others who Manuel has known in his football career including Mario Edwards Jr with whom he was teammates at Florida state in 2012, and tight end Lee Smith with whom he was teammates in Buffalo Manuel’s first two seasons in in NFL in 2013-14.
“He’s seen a lot of ball in his time in a lot of different situations, most of which weren’t good,” Smith told the Mercury News this week. “The fact that he’s in the situation he’s in, with a high, high likelihood to succeed in, it’s going to be awesome.”
Over the offseason and through training camp, Manuel looked like the former 16 overall pick he is. He showed chemistry with several Raiders receivers, most notably Cordarrelle Patterson and ended up being his roommate at camp.
That’s not past familiarity, but it’s developed chemistry. And when Manuel entered the game last Sunday, he completed 11 passes, with his first two passes going to Smith and Patterson. Ultimately he would complete passes to six different receivers.