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Matt Elam, E.J. Manuel Renew Rivalry

Posted Sep 26, 2013

The Bills' first-round pick is a mobile dual-threat quarterback with whom the Ravens are not familiar.

Matt Elam knows EJ Manuel well.

The Ravens first-round pick faced off against Manuel in each of the last three seasons during their rival games between Florida and Florida State, and they trained together leading up to the draft. Elam also got the best of Manuel with an interception in last year’s matchup.

“He did pick me off,” Manuel said. “I know Matt’s going to be ready, and I plan on being ready as well.”

Elam has seen plenty of Manuel, but the Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback is an unknown commodity for most everyone else on the Ravens defense. Manuel is just three games into his NFL career, and the Ravens have a limited sampling of film from the promising No. 16 overall pick.

“We haven’t seen too much of him, so we don’t have a feel for him in person,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “That’s a two-sided coin – the fact that we haven’t seen him, also the fact he hasn’t seen us and doesn’t have a lot of experience.  So, that will play both ways.”

Manuel has been solid through the first three games of the year.

He has thrown for 689 yards and four touchdowns, with just one interception. He also has 13 carries for 76 yards.

“His development has been so rapid,” Harbaugh said. “Very impressed with how far he’s come in a short time.”

Elam has seen a significant improvement in Manuel since they squared off last season.

“He took his game to another level, he’s not the same E. J. from college,” Elam said. “He’s making better decisions than he did in college.”

The Bills’ decision to draft Manuel also coincided with the arrival of new Head Coach Doug Marrone, who has completely changed the team’s offense. Buffalo ran more of a pro style offense last year with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, but Manuel has the ability to work out of a variety of packages.

“They built the offense around his skills, which are many,” Harbaugh said. “He can run the read option, he’s got great poise in the pocket, he can throw the ball downfield.”

The Bills do not run as much read option as teams like Washington or San Francisco, but Manuel does have the ability to get outside the pocket and make plays in space. He had 827 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns during his college career.

“We love that we get the opportunity again to play against one of these up-and-coming, rising quarterbacks – a dual threat like E.J. Manuel,” outside  linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “It’s going to be a challenge.”

The Ravens have not faced a mobile quarterback through the first three weeks, as Peyton Manning, Brandon Weeden and Matt Schaub are all traditional pocket passers. Facing a quarterback with the ability to run puts an extra strain on the defense.

“There are just so many things that you can do off of it, especially when you have a mobile quarterback that can make plays with his arms and legs,” Suggs said. “Then it becomes a tough scheme to defend. You’ve just got to go back to your fundamentals, play fundamental football, and try to have the best day you can.”

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