The Buffalo Bills are breaking in a new quarterback and a new head coach. Big changes are happening out East, and the Colts are going to be getting the first look at it.
With Kevin Kolb’s knee giving him trouble and a death in his family, E.J. Manuel has been taking the first team reps and will reportedly be the starting quarterback on Sunday. Manuel is one of the subjects of this article, so let’s take a look at five things to watch on the other sideline. What storylines should we follow as it pertains to Buffalo?
1. The Quarterback
E.J. Manuel, the first QB selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, is one of the biggest storylines in the Bills vs. Colts pre-season opener. As I mentioned earlier, a situation of slipping on a wet mat and injuring his knee is forcing expected starter Kevin Kolb to dress only as an emergency QB.
Manuel was quite possibly the most intriguing pick in the entire first round of the 2013 draft. He has ideal size and athletic ability for the QB position, but some were not sold he was a first or even second round prospect. I figured Manuel wouldn’t last past the second round, but the way things were sounding, it didn’t seem like he was the guy the Bills were targeting in round one.
With Doug Marrone now in the fold, it seemed logical the Bills would pass on a QB in the first round and maybe look to the second or third round and take Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib, whom Marrone coached.
Instead, the Bills made a bold move–a move I really like. This coaching staff and new regime will be attached to the success of Manuel, and it all begins on Sunday.
2. Rookie receivers
As much hype as E.J. Manuel has received–and rightfully so–the Bills also made some really interesting picks at the WR position. They were able to snag USC wideout Robert Woods in the second round–an absolute steal in my opinion–and then they took speedster Marquise Goodwin in the third.
Woods is more of a possession type receiver, but he definitely has a nose for the end zone and can make all the tough catches. He is as pro-ready as they come and I fully expect him to make an impact this season.
Goodwin is having a good training camp and will start off as the team’s #4 receiver. He can be effective in the slot, as a return man, out of the backfield–you name it.
The Bills also picked up another rookie receiver this year who generated a lot of pre-draft hype in Da’Rick Rogers. Rogers was dismissed from the Tennessee football program, and wound up finishing his collegiate career at Tennessee Tech. He appeared to be facing a similar journey to that of Janoris Jenkins, who was kicked off the Florida football team before he wound up getting taken in the 2nd round by the Rams last year, but that wasn’t the case for Rogers.
He went undrafted, and is now facing an uphill climb to make the roster. He needs to have a big pre-season, so we’ll look forward to seeing him battle out there.
3. Jerry Hughes
Jerry Hughes was a mis-fit with the Colts as a former first round pick, and these two teams swung a trade this offseason sending Hughes to Buffalo and inside linebacker Kelvin Sheppard to the Colts.
Hughes needs to have a good pre-season. The Bills don’t have a ton of great pass rushers, and it’s likely Hughes will be the primary backup to starters Mario Williams and Manny Lawson.
4. Bills O-Line
The Bills lost a key piece of their offensive line when Andy Levitre bolted for the Tennessee Titans. It will be very interesting to see how the interior offensive line, or offensive line in general has re-couped. This doesn’t look like the team’s most promising unit, so we’ll have to see them in game action to make initial judgments.
5. CB Nickell Robey
The former USC star and fan favorite has been turning heads, and will see significant action in Sunday’s game. He is going to get an opportunity to make this team as the nickel cornerback with a few guys on the team nursing injuries. Keep an eye on Robey, who will be wearing #37.