The Bills are 2-0 in thus far preseason games. Winning a preseason game is essentially meaningless, but it’s how Buffalo played that is worth talking about. The Bills outperformed the Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings in almost every aspect of the game.
The Buffalo Bills made an unexpected pick in the 2013 draft, taking Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel with the 16th overall pick. Hindsight is always 20/20, and fewer people are still questioning Buffalo’s decision. Up to this point in the preseason, Manuel has been impressive, and I expect him to start week 1. Kevin Kolb was never more than a temporary starter, and I think Manuel has already outplayed him.
Aug 16, 2013; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel (3) drops back to pass as Minnesota Vikings defensive end George Johnson (92) rushes during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Bills beat the Vikings 20-16. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
E.J. Manuel’s totals look like this: 26/33 (78.8%) for 199 yards with two TDs and zero INTs. He has had nice short throws, but we still have yet to see what he can do with the deep ball. One way to look at his consistently short pass attempts is that he wasn’t forcing anything, and just took what the defense gave him. He appears to have command over the offense, and he looks very poised in the pocket.
The running backs are the centerpiece of the Bills offense. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson have combined for only 21 total carries in two games, a number that will certainly go up once the regular season starts. Those two backs are known for their home-run capabilities which will only add to the Bills impressive preseason display. Doug Marrone’s fast-paced offense should offer the RBs more opportunities, so long as the offense can execute and operate at that speed.
The rookie wide receivers have started slow in the passing game to this point, but have made an impact on special teams in the return game. Against the Colts, Marquise Goodwin had a touchdown on one kick return, and a 53 yard return on his other attempt. Robert Woods was impressive on punt returns against the Vikings, averaging 12.8 yards per return.
Overall, the Buffalo Bills look a little further in their development stages than I expected them to be after two preseason games. Still early to say E.J. Manuel is the long-term solution at quarterback, but he’s starting to solidify the argument. One big negative that’s looming over Buffalo is the contract dispute with Jairus Byrd. Byrd is the most consistent player on the Bills defense and one of the top safeties in the AFC, so resolving this dispute is a high priority.