Although Tyrod Taylor was able to practice on a limited basis all week and was a game time decision, head coach Rex Ryan has decided to start EJ Manuel against the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals. Manuel took the majority of the reps all week with the first team offense with Taylor still slowed by a sprained MCL suffered last Sunday.
"I think EJ did a tremendous job for us in the preseason," said head coach Rex Ryan. "We moved (Matt) Cassel as we mentioned before because of EJ and his development. We're very comfortable and confident that he'll do a great job for us."
For Manuel it will be the 15th start of his NFL career and first in over a calendar year. The third-year signal caller's last regular season start came on Sept. 28th last year at Houston before he was benched in favor of veteran backup Kyle Orton.
"All that stuff is in the past," said Manuel. "That's for a reason. It's in the past so I felt I had a great preseason and have a bunch of confidence to build off of that. I think I've done real well the last couple of weeks in practice, so I'm excited."
There's no debating the former first-round pick has made noticeable strides with his personal game thanks in large part to the tutelage of offensive coordinator Greg Roman, quarterbacks coach David Lee, senior offensive assistant Chris Palmer and an unrelenting work ethic.
Manuel is coming off a preseason in which he posted a 146.9 quarterback rating while completing better than 66 percent of his passes with four touchdowns. He also averaged a gaudy 11.9 yards per attempt.
"I definitely feel confident in what I can do. I think my teammates feel the same way," said Manuel. "I think my vision has gotten a lot better. The coaches have done a great job of preparing us each and every week with a game plan as far as our checks for whatever defense we're going against. Just want to go out there and help our team win."
When asked how confident they are that Manuel can lead the offense several of his teammates expressed optimism, again recognizing how the quarterback has improved.
"We've got a ton of confidence in EJ. Throughout the quarterback competition it's really brought the best out in EJ," said Richie Incognito. "I think he stepped his game up to another level. We've got a ton of confidence in him. We know EJ is going to get the job done and we're excited to see him go."
"Very confident," said Sammy Watkins. "We had him in training camp everybody saw his big improvement with his throwing ability and his reading (coverages), so there's no doubt that he can go out and make the plays that we need to make."
Manuel has never faced the Cincinnati Bengals in his career. He was out with a knee injury when the Bills faced the Bengals in his rookie season of 2013. His backup at the time Thad Lewis got the start in a 27-24 overtime loss.