The Buffalo Bills opened their preseason on August 11 with a bang, beating the Indianapolis Colts 44-20. They hope to continue their momentum tonight when they play the Minnesota Vikings at Ralph Wilson stadium.
There were a lot of good things, and a couple of bad ones, that came from that game. However, I have narrowed it down to the six most intriguing stats.
One quality that stood out in the Bills game Sunday was EJ Manuel’s composure. It was especially noticeable in his final drive of the first half.
The Bills started out on their own 8-yard line with 1:50 left in the first half. Manuel led the Bills on a 10-play, 88-yard drive. He accounted for 68 yards in the air and four more on the ground, capping the drive off with a 17-yard strike to Dorin Dickerson for six.
Many will point to the fact that it is just preseason and question if the games really matter. However, Manuel started the game with a fumble during a handoff to CJ Spiller and could have easily been rattled. This wasn't the case and instead showed confidence, which has been missing from the position for some time.
Coach Doug Marrone has already announced that Kevin Kolb will get the start tonight against Minnesota. He made it clear this is nothing more than each quarterback getting his shot and is no reflection on Manuel.
This stat should come as no surprise to any Bills fans who watched C.J. Spiller last season. Last year, Spiller made a name for himself as one of the most explosive players in the NFL. He finished the year with an average of six yards per carry, with Adrian Peterson being the only running back with a better average.
It was good to see he picked up right where he left off, with the first two plays of the game being running plays off the right end for 17 yards and 15 yards.
It won't matter which quarterback is under center this year as offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has made it clear that Spiller is the main guy. He went as far to say he will give the ball to the running back “until he throws up." Coach Marrone, however, has already backed off from that comment.
Dustin Hopkins was drafted in the sixth round this past draft and has performed well enough this summer that he was sent out first over veteran Rian Lindell. He didn't have to show off his leg as he had chip shots of 24 and 23 yards.
It wasn't a perfect day for Hopkins as he struggled a bit on the kickoff. He had five kickoffs in the first half with three ending up deep in the end zone. His second kickoff of the game only reached the goal line and was returned 28 yards. The third was even worse as it bounced out of bounds at the 4-yard line, and Buffalo was assessed a penalty that moved the ball out to the 40-yard line.
Lindell is a 14-year veteran who has proven to be a very accurate kicker but has lost some power the past few seasons. If Hopkins really wants to separate himself in this competition, it will come on kickoffs and will be interesting to see how he does against Minnesota.
One of the negatives that came out of the preseason game on Sunday was the number of times the Bills were flagged. Buffalo is a young team, so it is a little expected that this might happen; however, a couple of penalties could have been avoided completely.
Marquise Goodwin was hit with an unnecessary roughness penalty covering a punt in the first quarter when he hit a player who was already out of bounds. Later in the quarter, Ron Brooks was called for taunting after a 13-yard run by Colts running back Vick Ballard.
These types of penalties have to be extremely frustrating for Coach Marrone as they are just a mental lapse and could be completely avoidable.
After the offseason Mario Williams had, and the way training camp started with the foot injury, he may have been the happiest Bill to get back to playing football. Williams kicked off the preseason doing what he is known for by getting a sack on Andrew Luck.
As shown in the video, Mario Williams ran right past the Colts' left tackle in their second series. Luck didn't even have time to get set in his five-step drop before Williams was driving him to the ground.
This explosiveness is something Mike Pettine will use to the team's advantage this season. A strong pass rush led by Mario Williams can mask any potential deficiencies currently in the Bills' secondary outside of Stephon Gilmore. If opposing quarterbacks have less time in the pocket, it will mean the secondary has to cover its skill players less.
Over the years, Buffalo has had a number of explosive kick returners, but Marquise Goodwin could be the best of the bunch. He had two kick returns on Sunday, the first being for 53 yards. The second, as shown in the video, was a touchdown that went 107 yards.
Goodwin has world class speed, and he showed Sunday if he gets even a little daylight, he will take advantage of it. If Goodwin is able to give Buffalo good field position, it will take a great deal of pressure off whichever quarterback is under center at the start of the season.