E.J. Manuel finishes strong in Bills preseason opener

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor

The first quarterback taken in the 2013 NFL Draft made his debut on Sunday, and the results were mixed.

E.J. Manuel saw the first NFL action of his career on Sunday against the Colts, and the nerves appeared to get the best of him.

Manuel started for the Bills after Kevin Kolb injured his knee on Saturday. He stayed in the game well into the first half and went 7-of-12 for 39 yards before being taken out, looking as as shaky as his statistics indicate.

The strong-armed, mobile quarterback displayed all of the traits that made him a questionable pick at No. 16 overall back in April. He was holding onto the football too long and staring down his receivers, which led to some questionable throws.

But the Bills brought Manuel back in the game to run the two-minute drill, and he looked much more comfortable, going 9-for-9 for 68 yards and a touchdown. The trick? The Bills were running a lot of quick passing plays that helped Manuel find his rhythm. The best throw of the drive was the touchdown throw, a beautiful toss down the seam for a 17-yard score.

It's worth noting that Manuel and the Bills' starters were working against the Colts' second- and third-string defenses, but it helped Manuel finish strong. His final stat line was 16-for-21 for 107 yards and a touchdown.

Throughout the first half, Manuel struggled to work through his reads and find open receivers for big plays. Most of his completions were check downs and screen passes, which contributed to his low yardage total. When making his first read, Manuel managed to move the ball down field, but like in college, he struggled if that first read wasn't open.

Manuel managed to make an impact on the ground as well, carrying twice for 24 yards. That opened things up for C.J. Spiller to run four times for 36 yards.

The Bills are going to need to rely heavily on the running game and short passing game to support Manuel early in his career. He has the ability to pick up chunks of yardage with his legs, and Buffalo's best offensive weapon is Spiller. If Doug Marrone is willing to get creative with his offense, the Bills may be able to be a productive team on the ground in 2013.

Pressure will be on Manuel early in his career after the Bills made him the first quarterback drafted in 2013. It wasn't a popular pick at the time, but Manuel will now likely see the field sooner rather than later. Once Kolb is healthy, the Bills should have a better idea of how the quarterback situation will play out.

Based on his performance on Sunday, Manuel may not be ready for responsibility of being a starter.

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