E.J. Manuel made his rookie debut on Sunday. Like most rookies, the former Florida State quarterback showed some nerves, but he also showed flashes of the ability that made him a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
While most of his passes were checkdowns or throws made to his first read, Manuel got better as the game went on and led a touchdown drive on the Bills' two-minute drill at the end of the first half.
Like most rookies, Manuel was in the spotlight. Criticism of his performance was rampant. Luckily for him, there was a batch of rookies across the league stepping on an NFL field for the first time. Let's put a few of them under the microscope.
Who looked good?
Cordarrelle Patterson, wide receiver, Minnesota Vikings
Coming into the 2013 NFL Draft, Cordarrelle Patterson was viewed as a raw receiver. He was a project who would need time to develop his game. Well, in his first NFL action, the former Tennessee playmaker quieted the doubters for a bit, catching four passes for 54 yards. Let's not crown him the answer to Minnesota's receiving woes just yet, but he's undoubtedly talented enough to have an impact on the passing game as a rookie. Will he continue to develop the technical aspects of his game and show the focus to consistently be a viable weapon for Christian Ponder? Only time will tell.
DeAndre Hopkins, wide receiver, Houston Texans
In the Houston Texans' preseason opener, rookie wideout DeAndre Hopkins did what he did consistently during his final season at Clemson: he got open. Hopkins isn't the most physically gifted wide receiver from the 2013 class, but he may be the most pro-ready due to his ability to get separation with refined route running. So the Texans will have a legitimate threat opposite Andre Johnson for the first time in franchise history. In his NFL debut, Hopkins had four catches, including a touchdown. Matt Schaub has to be a happy man.
Barkevious Mingo, linebacker, Cleveland Browns
As a junior at LSU, Barkevious Mingo's talent went to waste at times. He was often running contain and didn't get enough chances to show his athleticism and get after the quarterback. In his first NFL game, the Cleveland Browns set him free. His length and explosiveness were on full display, and the AFC North offensive tackles got a little less comfortable with each play. He may end up being the best defensive player from the 2013 NFL Draft.
David Amerson, cornerback, Washington Redskins
It didn't take long for David Amerson to get exposed in 2012. In the first game of his final season at N.C. State, Amerson was consistently targeted by Tyler Bray and the Tennessee passing attack, and the Volunteers had all of the success. But despite his draft day fall, Amerson held his own in his preseason debut against the Titans. He was at his best when playing close to the line of scrimmage and showed his athleticism as well. Amerson's short-area quickness wasn't tested too much, but so far so good for the former N.C. State cornerback.
Denard Robinson, offensive weapon, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars deployed offensive weapon Denard Robinson in some creative ways during his first NFL game, and for the most part, the former Michigan quarterback impressed. He's most natural with the football in his hands, and broke off some nice runs. He has the field vision and agility to be a capable running back early in his career.
Sio Moore, linebacker, Oakland Raiders
The Raiders have been a common choice to finish among the league's worst teams in 2013, but they quietly acquired some talent in April's draft. Connecticut linebacker Sio Moore was one of the team's best value picks, and he showed off his versatility and athleticism against the Cowboys in his first preseason game. He will have to overcome a lack of ideal size, but he fits the classic Raider mentality and should be a fixture on that defense for the foreseeable future.
Who didn't look so good?
Montee Ball, running back, Denver Broncos
Denver running backs aren't what they used to be. The Broncos drafted Wisconsin star Montee Ball in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft to provide a spark in the backfield, but he hasn't done much to separate himself from the team's current stable of backs. He had only nine yards on five carries in his debut, and although he wasn't solely to blame for the poor production, it's easy to wonder whether he will establish himself as a feature back before the season starts.
Tavon Austin, wide receiver, St. Louis
Breathe, Rams fans. Tavon Austin will be just fine, and he's likely headed for a long career as one of the team's most dynamic weapons. But his first taste of professional football was forgettable. Austin received only one target, which was a drop. Plenty of detractors question Austin's size, and even though it may take him some time to get adjusted to the NFL, there's no reason to panic. He is too dangerous with the ball in his hands to be anything but a big factor in St. Louis' offense.
Giovani Bernard, running back, Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati's offense is loaded with weapons, and Giovani Bernard is expected to be one of them. He had an up-and-down debut for the Bengals, though. While he scored a touchdown, Bernard wasn't consistently shedding contact between the tackles and mustered only 28 yards on his 10 carries.
Matt Elam, safety, Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore drafted Matt Elam in the first round to help ease the loss of future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed. Elam's rookie debut wasn't a disaster, but the fact that he was running with the second-team defense was a bit disappointing to see. Considering the impact other first-round picks are having right away, Elam needs to show a bit more.