Kevin Kolb's ill-fated brush with a rubber mat left him in an emergency quarterback role for Sunday's preseason opener versus the Indianapolis Colts. Rookie EJ Manuel took advantage of the extended opportunity, playing the entire first half of the Buffalo Bills' 44-20 victory.
The results were decidedly mixed for the No. 16 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Manuel failed to move the offense early, spending the majority of the first quarter handing off to C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson in a run-heavy attack.
Looking robotic at times, Manuel "aimed" his passes and had trouble getting through his progressions. The strong arm and quick wheels that got him drafted in the first round were evident, however. Manuel did not throw an interception, but he was credited with a fumble after a botched handoff to Spiller.
Manuel's highlight was a patient 95-yard drive, capped off with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Dorin Dickerson in the two-minute drill just before halftime. Manuel and fellow rookie Robert Woods showed a promising rapport on the drive, even if it came against the Colts' third-string defense.
Here's what else we learned during Sunday's game:
1. Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett promised to feed Spiller the football until he pukes, and the early game play-calling suggested that will indeed be the case. Spiller was just as electric as last season, gashing the Colts for runs of 15 and 17 yards on his first two carries. Fred Jackson lost a step last season and failed to regain it Sunday. Now 32 years old and coming off knee problems, Jackson simply doesn't move well laterally.
2. Defensive end Mario Williams (foot) and defensive tackle Kyle Williams (Achilles) both started for the Bills and played two series. Mario even came through with a sack on Andrew Luck. This defense is a more aggressive and hard-hitting unit under new coordinator Mike Pettine.
3. The Bills always seem to have an explosive kick returner, and this year is no different. After third-round speedster Marquise Goodwin nearly broke the opening kickoff for a touchdown, going for 53 yards, he took his next chance 107 yards to the house.
4. Darrius Heyward-Bey bounced back from a knee scare to start opposite Reggie Wayne in the Colts' two-wide receiver sets, but he's going to have his hands full keeping the freakishly talented T.Y. Hilton at bay. Coach Chuck Pagano offered yet another glowing review after Hilton toasted cornerback Ron Brooks on a diving, 45-yard touchdown catch.
5. It's too early to write off former first-round draft bust Donald Brown, who saw plenty of action with the first-team offense. Brown's role will be reduced once Ahmad Bradshaw returns from his foot injury, but the Colts don't appear to be ready to throw in the towel.
6. Luck's tight connection with Coby Fleener carried over from practices to Sunday's game. Fleener did a nice job of slipping a tackle on a 23-yard catch-and-run only to fumble at the end of the play.
7. Speaking of Colts tight ends, the team received good news on Dwayne Allen's foot injury. Although Allen was sporting crutches and a walking boot Sunday, Pagano "absolutely" expects him back for the regular-season opener. Allen tweeted early in the day that he was confident he would be back on the field "very soon." Pagano has set that timetable at a couple of weeks.The Around The League Podcast is now available on iTunes! Click here to listen and subscribe.