There’s nothing too spectacular about the way EJ Manuel has looked in the first two preseason games for the Buffalo Bills, but he’s been solid and consistent enough to keep him ahead of Kevin Kolb on the depth chart, and the favorite to claim the starting position when the season begins.
Kolb was the one who got the start as the Bills beat the Minnesota Vikings 20-16, finishing with 111 yards on 13-of-21 passing. He looked quite shaky during the first quarter, but playing the entire half, he looked better and better as the game progressed, leading the Bills on two scoring drives, ending in field goals, while Buffalo’s only touchdown in the first half came off a Jamie Blatnick fumble return.
Manuel got to start in the second half, finishing the game with an impressive 10 of 12 for 92 yards and a touchdown pass to Brad Smith. Meanwhile, the running game continued looking quite sharp, with the Bills running for 173 yards on 40 carries, including 54 yards from Tashad Choice. C.J. Spiller finished with 27 yards on 7 carries, failing to contribute in the passing game.
The Bills aren’t taking a lot of chances with Manuel, keeping it short and simple so far. No shots downfield and keeping the routes very simple and short, but he’s also not making any mistakes, completing a second preseason game without a single interception. Kolb didn’t throw any picks either, but it seems that being the second choice for now is hurting his decision making on the field.
The Bills defense looked good against a group of Minnesota quarterbacks that don’t have a lot of people feeling very confident about. The Bills’ defense got four sacks for 38 yards during the game, including two by outside linebacker Jerry Hughes, forcing a fumble off of Matt Cassel in the second quarter.
The Bills continue to play it safe with Mario Williams, the team’s most expensive player, and after giving him a limited time on the field during the first preseason game, he sat out the entire encounter with the Vikings, although it didn’t really seem to trouble his team find their way beyond the Vikings’ offensive line, finishing with four sacks.
The Bills need these wins in the preseason, even though most teams don’t usually care about the wins; more about the ability of the starting unit when it’s on the field together. It’s been 13 seasons since the last time they made the playoffs; it’s been since 2004 when the Bills finished the season above .500. They need confidence from the overhauled roster, more than anything else, even if it comes from meaningless wins.