EJ Manuel's Promising Preseason Debut Sign of Things to Come for Buffalo Bills

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVAugust 12, 2013

Aug 11, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA;Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel (3) runs past Indianapolis Colts defenders during their pre-season game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills surprised many back in April when they made E.J. Manuel the first quarterback taken in the 2013 draft with a first-round pick, but he's proven his worth since. The biggest statement yet came in his preseason debut against the Indianapolis Colts.

Head coach Doug Marrone implemented a two-minute offense late in the first half with Manuel still running the offense, one big touchdown drive away from putting an exclamation mark on a solid debut.

Then, 96 seconds later, he had orchestrated a near-perfect drive and left Bills fans with butterflies in their stomachs.

Manuel went 9-of-9 passing on the 10-play drive that went all of 92 yards, constantly showing promise by hitting checkdowns and moving the chains.

Then, a 17-yard strike to tight end Dorin Dickerson gave Manuel his touchdown to end the drive and his day just before halftime.

On the debut, Manuel went an impressive 16-of-21 with 107 yards and a score, showing glimpses of promise and skill. But it wasn't until the two-minute offense was conducted that Manuel showed why his leadership has long been admired in NFL circles.

To go along with Manuel's solid passing day, he also had three scampers for 28 yards, showing that the talk of his dual-threat capabilities wasn't inaccurate.

What's more, Manuel just didn't look like a rookie out there. You don't expect a rookie quarterback to take command of his offense and be the vocal leader that Manuel was right off the bat.

His performance was reflected in the Bills' 44-20 margin of victory over Andrew Luck's Colts. While it is just the preseason, what he was able to do in game situations is nevertheless impressive.

Of course, the Bills still have Kevin Kolb waiting in the wings to compete against Manuel for the starting job. Kolb returned to practice Monday after missing time with a knee injury, per Mike Rodak of ESPN, which has given Manuel the leg up in the competition so far.

Perhaps the Bills aren't going to enjoy a turnaround that will result in their first winning season in eight years, but that much will come down to the rigors of the season and how all sorts of questions will be answered.

Manuel is just a rookie, which means that growing pains are inevitable and early struggles don't indicate failure, but he looks poised to prove all of his doubters wrong and show why he was the top quarterback taken in the 2013 draft class.