This year, the Buffalo Bills shocked everyone when they reached for Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel with the 15th overall pick in the NFL Draft. Plenty of talent was still on the board, including some widespread believed top-10 picks. But, the Bills went with their gut and took Manuel off the board.
While many have criticized the move throughout the spring and summer, others have tried to see the light in the situation. Manuel brings a different aspect to the offense with his legs and could offer an exciting change of pace to Buffalo’s game plan.
Sunday, the Bills took on the Indianapolis Colts in their preseason opener and Manuel got the start. If his first NFL action is any indication of what type of player the Bills got themselves, they looked incredibly smart when Manuel tore apart the Colts defense for one half.
Manuel finished the game 16-21 for 107 yards and a touchdown. The Bills kept his passes manageable and pretty vanilla, but he executed the plays like a veteran. He also threw in a nice 24 yard run in the first quarter to make it known that he is a double threat.
Toward the end of the first half, the Bills had the ball on their own 5-yard line with 1:50 to go, possessing all three time outs as well. Manuel went 9-9 on the drive, leading his team down the field for a score and the lead heading into halftime.
After the game, Manuel credited his veteran teammates with helping his development as a rookie. He looks and sounds like a big-time player already. With veteran Kevin Kolb being acquired from the Arizona Cardinals over the offseason, the Bills thought they would wind up starting Manuel out on the bench. But, many believe that Manuel will continue to begin games as the number one guy.
If Manuel continues to play like he did in the preseason opener and consistently keeps learning all that he can, I don’t see the Bills ever looking Kolb’s way. It may wind up being a case like the Seattle Seahawks last year with Russell Wilson and Matt Flynn, where, the rookie simply steals the job away and keeps it for himself.
The Bills have a bright future ahead, and Manuel figures to be a big part of it. With a solid back field and a talented wideout like Stevie Johnson, Manuel is in a great position to succeed. Let’s see if he can continue to take hold of his opportunities in the remainder of his preseason schedule.