Takeaways from Buffalo Bills’ Preseason Opener vs. Indianapolis Colts

C.J. Spiller and the Buffalo Bills have plenty of takeaways to smile about from Sunday’s preseason-opening victory over the Indianapolis Colts. (Photo: Brian Spurlock — USA Today Sports)

BBD Editor: Dan Hope

Final scores are meaningless in the preseason, but Buffalo Bills fans are wishing that wasn’t the case after the team’s 44-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, an AFC playoff team last season, in their preseason opener Sunday.

There was a lot to like about the Bills’ preseason opener Sunday. Rookie quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel combined to complete 35 of 44 passing attempts for 315 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. In addition to their three passing touchdowns, the Bills also scored touchdowns on defense (interception return by Jumal Rolle) and special teams (kickoff return by Marquise Goodwin).

Manuel, Tuel, Rolle and Goodwin were all among the standouts on Sunday’s first slice of game action for the Buffalo Bills’ 2013 season. Let’s go in-depth and take a closer look at what worked — and a little bit of what didn’t — in the Bills’ impressive preseason outing today.

Evaluating the Rookie Quarterbacks

With only one Sunday game to close the first week of the preseason, the national spotlight was squarely upon rookie first-round pick EJ Manuel making his preseason debut. His overall performance was up-and-down, but it finished on a very high note.

Manuel played the entire first half Sunday. He struggled for most of that time, specifically with his ball placement. Many of Manuel’s throws came up short of their intended target, resulting in incompletions or forcing his receivers to make tough catches by coming back or reaching back for the ball.

These struggles came with a simplified offensive gameplan in which all but two of his throws were 10 yards or less. For Manuel to be the quarterback the Bills need to make a run this season, Manuel is going to have to prove he can place downfield throws successfully.

EJ Manuel completed 16 of 21 passing attempts, including eight of nine on a half-ending 2-minute drill, in the first half vs. the Indianapolis Colts. (Photo: Brian Spurlock — USA Today Sports)

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett’s gameplan worked wonders for Manuel, however, during the two-minute drill to end his half of play. During this sequence, Manuel looked very poised and found his comfort zone.

He completed eight of nine passing attempts for 68 yards and a touchdown, capped by a fantastic 17-yard touchdown completion to tight end Dorin Dickerson between a double-coverage window into the middle of the end zone. He also had a scramble for four yards on the 10-play, 92-yard drive, with the other 20 yards coming from Colts penalties. His only incompletion was a smart throw fired out of bounds under pressure.

Manuel has a long way to go in his development, but his two-minute drill was enough to feel confident in his progression thus far. He also showed his dual-threat ability to make plays with his legs, including a 24-yard scramble to convert on a 3rd-and-6.

If he can take confidence from how he finished Sunday, he can hopefully parlay into a stronger performance Friday night versus the Minnesota Vikings.

Kevin Kolb sat out Sunday’s game, giving Jeff Tuel, the Bills’ other rookie quarterback, the opportunity to play the entire second half. Tuel took advantage of his opportunity, and made a very strong case for making the Bills’ regular-season roster as a backup quarterback.

Interestingly, Hackett didn’t keep the same reins on Tuel as he did on Manuel. Tuel threw the ball deep early and often, and he looked good doing it. He threw for 212 passing yards on 23 passing attempts, including two 29-yard completions up the right sideline to Marcus Easley and Brandon Kaufman.

Tuel looked very composed in the pocket throughout the half and did a great job delivering the ball downfield with arm strength. He made smart reads and was consistent with his passing accuracy.

Tuel completed 19 of 23 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns. His 9.2 yards per passing attempt was far better than Manuel’s 5.1 (16-21, 107 yards, 1 TD). That said, it is important to remember that Tuel’s passing came entirely against the Colts’ reserve defensive units.

Tuel’s biggest issue in this game was handling shotgun snaps from center David Snow. He bobbled two of them, one of which he fumbled at the 12-yard line on a third-down play to force the Bills into settling for a field goal.

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Tags: C.J. Spiller, Chris Hogan, Crezdon Butler, EJ Manuel, Game Reviews, Indianapolis Colts, Jamie Blatnick, Jeff Tuel, Jerry Hughes, Jumal Rolle, Kiko Alonso, Manny Lawson, Marcus Easley, Marquise Goodwin, Preseason, Preseason Takeaways, Ron Brooks, Thomas Welch

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