E.J. Manuel’s first taste of game action in the NFL didn’t result in a performance good enough to call for an immediate end to the quarterback competition in Buffalo, but it didn’t do much to hurt his chances either.
Manuel ran the offense for six series and led the Bills to a pair of field goals before exiting the game with a touchdown to close the half. The Bills offense played at the faster pace that’s been anticipated since Doug Marrone became the head coach, but they didn’t ask Manuel to take too many chances down the field. They fed C.J. Spiller the ball early and often, which was another expected development even if Spiller’s fumble wasn’t particularly appreciated, and Manuel threw almost only short passes during his stint.
Manuel’s biggest play of the day came on the ground. He flashed his running ability on a play where the Colts got some quick pressure and turned a potential loss into a 24-yard gain. His passing wasn’t quite as impressive, outside of a two-minute drill at the end of the first half against Colts backups that saw Manuel complete all nine passes culminating with an 17-yard touchdown pass to Dorin Dickerson.
He wound up 16-for-21 for 107 yards with a couple of poor throws keeping the completion percentage from being even higher. One incompletion came on a play when Manuel rolled out and threw the ball out the back of the end zone when he couldn’t find an open receiver. While that’s not the ideal result, it’s better than the pick that can come when a quarterback doesn’t realize that the best choice is to settle for the field goal.
Kevin Kolb won’t get a chance to answer in Sunday’s game since he didn’t dress after missing practice time after slipping on a rubber mat early last week and then leaving camp to deal with a death in the family. When he does play, he’ll have an idea of the bar he’ll need to clear to jump ahead of Manuel in the pecking order. It’s not particularly high, but it may have been enough of a jumping off point, especially with Manuel’s play improving as the game went along, to make it difficult for Kolb to win the job.