Gruden, who joined the John Murphy Show on the eve of the annual Kickoff at the Ralph event, relayed some of the qualities of EJ Manuel as a quarterback that has him optimistic about his future and that of the Bills.
“First of all what impresses me the most is the kind of kid he is,” Gruden told the John Murphy Show. “He’s got a charisma about him a vibe about him that’s just contagious. You like being around him. You feel enthusiasm and knowledge and excitement. When you sit next to him you see how big he is. You understand he has a lot of talent. I think he has a huge ceiling and Buffalo fans have a lot to be excited about.”
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Gruden, who hosted Manuel for his Quarterback Camp series prior to the NFL draft said he felt Manuel had the biggest portfolio of skills among the quarterbacks in the class. He explained why.
“He’s a guy that can run just about any play you can dream up,” Gruden said of Manuel. “Option football which is coming into the NFL now, you can put him in a no huddle system where he’s comfortable. You can drop him straight back to pass. You don’t even have to block anybody because if you miss a few blocks he can still turn it into an explosive play. That’s how talented he is.”
In making comparisons to other NFL quarterbacks the two that came to mind for Gruden when watching Manuel on tape were Daunte Culpepper and Cam Newton.
“The size is imposing,” said Gruden. “It’s rare physical size and you combine that with tremendous athletic ability and that’s where I draw those comparisons. At Florida State they had a lot of ‘go get it’ balls. They dropped back to pass and he just launched it and those Florida State receivers went and got it and that reminded me of Culpepper. But he does have some of that Cam Newton athleticism in him and I think it’s going to be exciting to see what Buffalo does with him.”
Gruden, who worked with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett’s father Paul Hackett at Pitt is confident that Buffalo’s offensive play caller will be very varied with his plans for Manuel.
“He’s surrounded himself with a very good nucleus of coaches,” said Gruden. “Nathaniel Hackett will be very creative and he’ll get the most out of his personnel.”
Ultimately, Gruden think the Bills could surprise some teams this season.
“Football is changing now with the no huddle offenses, the spread attacks, the new emphasis on player safety,” said Gruden. “I think there’s a lot more parity than there has been. I love Mike Pettine’s defense, the scheme that he brings to Buffalo. The up tempo no huddle with an emerging young player like EJ Manuel is exciting.