All eyes were on rookie quarterbacks Geno Smith and EJ Manuel the last time the Jets and Buffalo Bills faced one another during the third week of the season. Since then, the hype has fizzled a bit for the first two quarterbacks taken in the 2013 NFL Draft.
With the pair set to go head-to-head once again this Sunday, it's interesting to see how Smith and Manuel have gone from potential saviors to question marks.
The inconsistencies and turnovers that have plagued Smith through his first nine games have already been well documented. Smith threw for over 300 yards when the Jets defeated the Bills in Week Three, and followed it up by throwing two costly interceptions the next game.
Just when it seems like Smith has turned the corner and figured things out, he'll make mistakes that force you to wonder if you're even watching the same player. At the same time, Smith deserves credit for showing an ability to bounce back after a poor performance and not let the previous week get to him.
Smith sometimes displays tremendous poise and has proven to be durable after getting sacked 30 times. Unfortunately, a few of those sacks could've been avoided had his awareness been better and he didn't hold onto the ball for so long. Good characteristics are certainly evident throughout his repertoire, which tend to make the blunders a bit more tolerable.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg probably asked a bit too much of Smith earlier in the season, leading to a lot of the mistakes and turnovers. The Jets have had success in recent weeks when they didn't take as many chances in the air and relied more on their running backs.
Calling a quarterback a game manager can sometimes be viewed as an insult, but that's what Smith should be at this point in his career.
While Smith has the disadvantage of learning under a microscope and having every play scrutinized in such a large market, Manuel is expected to fill a void for a team that has been looking for a franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly retired in 1996.
It's a bit too early to label Manuel as injury prone, but he missed time in the preseason due to a minor procedure on his left knee and was forced to sit out three regular season games with a sprained right knee. Manuel was never going to be mistaken for a scrambling quarterback, but bad knees at such a young age are going to leave him with the mobility of a piano later in his career.
Even before Manuel was injured for a second time, his numbers had already started to decline. After being incredibly efficient in his first two games as a pro, the game against the Jets marked the first time which he didn't complete 60-percent of his passes, and he's failed to reach that number in any game since.
Manuel looked a bit rusty in his first game back this past Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, so it's hard to gauge too much from his performance.
The Jets and Bills suffer from a tremendous lack of depth at the quarterback position. Both rookies have struggled to establish themselves, and neither team has a veteran that can play extended time while the two watch and learn.
For better or worse, Smith and Manuel are their guys right now. The Bills invested a first round pick in Manuel, so he probably has a bit more time to develop before they pull the plug. The Jets aren't as financially committed to Smith since he was drafted in the second round, so, theoretically, they can go in a different direction after the season if they don't think he's the answer.
That's not to say there isn't a bit of patience and leniency for the two, as there is still a learning curve in place. But as the weeks continue to go by, some improvement must eventually be demonstrated.