INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — When Buffalo took EJ Manuel ahead of Geno Smith and Ryan Nassib in this year’s draft, people wondered if it was a mistake.
Judging by the preseason opener, it looks like Manuel will be a good fit in coach Doug Marrone’s new offense.
The rookie quarterback completed 16 of 21 passes for 107 yards with one touchdown in Sunday’s preseason debut, leading the Bills past the Colts 44-20. He looked masterful running the 2-minute drill, and like a rookie when he botched a handoff to C.J. Spiller. But overall, he received good marks from his coaches and teammates.
“It’s all about relaxing,” Manuel said. “Obviously, it was my first time out there and I wanted to do great, but I thought as a team we played well. The main thing is just relaxing and taking your time.”
What else did the Colts and Bills learn Sunday?
1. ROOKIES RULE: Manuel wasn’t the only Bills rookie with an impressive start.
Marquise Goodwin, an Olympic long-jumper with world-class speed, returned two kickoffs for 160 yards including one for a 107-yard TD to tie the score at 13.
Da’Rick Rogers caught a 6-yard TD pass in the third quarter. Backup quarterback Jeff Tuel was 19 of 23 for 212 yards with two TDs and completed his first 10 passes after replacing Manuel in the third quarter.
And cornerback Jumal Rolle scored on a 17-yard interception return with 5:01 left in the game.
2. PLAYING IT SAFE: Andrew Luck and Chuck Pagano sure didn’t want to lose in a blowout Sunday. They were more interested, though, in staying healthy.
Luck played just two series, and backup Matt Hasselbeck played only three. Manuel, meanwhile, played with most of his starters through the entire first half. The Colts understand because they were in the same spot a year ago after changing general managers, coaches, coordinators and quarterbacks.
But after making the playoffs last season, the Colts had the luxury of pulling veterans and they did.
3. SPEED MATTERS, FOR NOW: Aside from Manuel and the rookies, the next best sight for Bills fans might have been seeing Marrone’s up-tempo offense.
It certainly looked good Sunday. Manuel and Tuel quickly got their teammates to the line, and it appeared to wear down a Colts’ defense that added size during the offseason.
Part of the explanation could be that it was the preseason opener, and players are still trying to get in sync. Part of the explanation might be that the Colts used their front-line defenders sparingly. Whatever the reason, it worked.
4. SPECIAL DELIVERY: While Goodwin ran free on his two kickoff returns, the Colts reverted to their old problems on special teams.
In addition to the coverage problems, Indy had seven kickoff returns for a total of 119 yards — an average of 17.0.
T.Y. Hilton did nearly that well on his only punt return (15 yards), but the Colts averaged just 9.0 yards on their other two returns. That prevented Indy from getting decent field position for much of the game.
Meanwhile, Goodwin set up one score with a 53-yard return and tied the game with his 107-yard return.
5. BEWARE OF THE RESULTS: Preseason wins and losses mean nothing, and no team knows that better than the Colts.
In their two Super Bowl seasons, they were a combined 2-6. From 2005-11, they were 5-25 in preseason games and missed the playoffs once.
But teams have different goals in the preseason, and last year, when Indy needed to build confidence it went 2-2. The Bills face a similar scenario this summer and want to give their starters as much game experience as possible.
Online: AP NFL website http://www.pro32.ap.org