At the NFL Combine, it was hard to miss George Whitfield. The self-proclaimed "Quarterback Engineer" was a fixture in the media area at Lucas Oil Stadium, talking to reporters about his latest project, FSU's Jameis Winston.
But Whitfield has a history with Bills QB EJ Manuel also. Manuel went to Whitfield's passing school in San Diego as a 17-year old high school student. And he returned for a summer time session with Whitfield before his senior season at FSU.
Whitfield, the "Quarterback Guru" who counts Cam Newton among his stable of quarterback protégés says Manuel impressed him as a teenager from Virginia with his serious demeanor and air of authority.
"He's always Presidential," Whitfield says of Manuel. "There are two guys that I've come across, EJ Manuel and Kirk Cousins, who are just very Presidential in how they carry themselves. Very classy, you just admire that. The position is one of leadership and its character driven. We knew that from EJ off the bat."
Whitfield made his comments Friday as a guest on The John Murphy Show from the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
In today's NFL, Whitfield says it's critically important for the quarterback to have some base level of athleticism, so that he can beat at least one free defender rushing the passer in the backfield. Whether it's buying time to throw downfield, or picking up yards on the ground, Whitfield says the modern-day quarterback has to help himself.
"I think the new prerequisite for athleticism is you've got to be able to defeat a free running defender one on one," he said. "You got to have some mechanism for beating him. Tony Romo has that little matador move that he beat J.J Watt on. Roethlisberger would probably throw you off of him. You come up on Cam Newton, you'll get stiff-armed. Some guys, they'll subtly sidestep you. Whatever the method is, you have to be able to at least contribute."
Whitfield says the Bills EJ Manuel has that ability to make the defender miss.
"He's unique," he says. "He's one of those Hummer Hybrids. Just a really big vehicle who can turn on a dime and has more than a normal set of gears. Everybody knows he's capable of that. At Florida State, he did a nice job of putting defenses in a bind. If you cover everything properly and your gap integrity is good everywhere, now you still have to account for this quarterback back there. If you do get to him, he's out of the pocket. If you can't get to him, he's made the play. I think he's gifted and he's going to emerge. He'll emerge."
Bills new Head Coach Rex Ryan and QBs Coach David Lee have both mentioned how important it is for Manuel to fully utilize his athleticism, his legs, in the next stage of his development. But Whitfield is quick to remind everyone that quarterback development does come in stages, and patience is essential when it comes to Manuel.
"I know he's had a little bit of turbulence getting off the ground," Whitfield told host John Murphy. "Getting healthy and finding his rhythm. He will. He's young."
"In the microwave sports society we live in, 'How is he not an All Pro already? Where is our Super Bowl trip?' People just have to invest in him. Peyton Manning had thirty turnovers his first year. It's a position of maturation. He's maturing. People should rest easy knowing they have a guy who can go win games."
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Photos of Buffalo Bills QB EJ Manuel.