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EJ, Geno helped by familiar defensive looks

Posted Sep 21, 2013

Two rookie signal callers will have the unusual benefit of being very familiar with the look of their opposing defense


NFL Rookie of the week EJ Manuel and Geno Smith have just two regular season NFL starts on their respective resumes. There is a lot they have yet to see in the league. On Sunday however, these two rookie signal callers will have the unusual benefit of being very familiar with the look of their opposing defense despite never facing them before.

With the defensive schemes of Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and Jets head coach Rex Ryan similar in many ways it’s expected to provide both Manuel and Smith with a host of familiar looks that the two quarterbacks have practiced against since May.

“I think it’s a huge benefit,” said Manuel. “Seeing a lot of those multiple looks and guys lining up and walking around before the snap, whether it was in OTAs or training camp I think that’s going to help me out personally. I think I can ID that pretty fast and still be able to call the play and still have a high tempo, which is our offense.”

Smith isn’t quite as confident.

“I think the comfort will come in with a ton of film study,” he said. “They’re similar, but in many ways they’re different and that includes personnel. So I have to study that as well. Basically as long as I continue to study and just watch the film and the more we prepare as the week goes on the better and more comfortable I’ll feel on Sunday.”

Both Ryan and Pettine admit there is a lot that is similar between their two defensive schemes having worked with one another for the past 11 years. At the same time Bills head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett are responsible for preparing Manuel for some twists and wrinkles to Ryan’s scheme that stands in contrast to what he’s seen in practice from Pettine’s unit.

“I know that with EJ we go into it every week with a plan and a process to get him prepared to play against whatever opponent it may be,” said Marrone. “Maybe some of the schematic things we’ll have seen. Obviously there’s a foundation to those systems, but you have to be ready on game day for the unexpected, what may change or what their plan is and how to attack it.”

Smith admitted that his head coach has taken a similar approach with him to prepare for the Bills defensive front.

“He definitely has sat down with us like he has every single week. He’s informs us about defensive schematics and the way defensive coordinators think and the way they operate,” Smith said. “Things that they would like to do and he’s done that this week. We have a ton of resources here that we can go to. A bunch of guys who have played under the defensive coordinator there, so there are a ton of guys I can go to and receive some information.”

Manuel, who was scheduled to meet with Coach Pettine late in the week, believes it’s the varied pre-snap looks the Jets give that can lead to confusion, but he believes he’ll be ready for most, if not all of it.

“I think a lot of their turnovers come from giving you hard looks,” he said. “You don’t know who to call out as the ‘mike’ linebacker and all that kind of stuff. The good news is we’ll have a bunch of those looks this week (in practice).”

Smith agrees that personal preparation done on his own time will be the most effective way to get ready for Buffalo’s defensive front.

“The best information I can get is by studying the film and getting to know the players and getting a feel for the D-coordinator with the things they’ve done on tape,” said Smith.

Once the game is underway it’ll come down to which quarterback can adapt to some of the unexpected wrinkles each coach has undoubtedly put in their defensive game plan.