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Manuel has a lackluster start before giving way to Tuel in preseason opener

Manuel has a lackluster start before giving way to Tuel in preseason opener Buffalo Bills wide receiver Robert Woods (10) catches a touchdown pass in front of New York Giants cornerback Jayron Hosley (28) in the second quarter at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

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CANTON, Ohio – EJ Manuel’s 2014 preseason debut was mediocre.

He has four more exhibitions until the real games begin.

The Buffalo Bills’ sophomore quarterback played two series in Sunday night’s 17-13 preseason-opening loss to the New York Giants in Fawcett Stadium. Manuel completed two of his seven throws for 19 yards.

Three of his passes were bated by Giants linemen. More than half of his yardage came from one screen pass.

“I would’ve liked to have thrown a touchdown when I was in,” Manuel said. “But this was our first game. We got our feet wet. We’re looking forward to moving on against Carolina” on Friday.

Manuel threw into the flat for Mike Williams, who made cornerback Prince Amukamara miss for an 11-yard gain to the Giants’ 11-yard line. But then Manuel threw incomplete passes on second and third downs, forcing a 30-yard Dan Carpenter field goal.

Bills coach Doug Marrone essentially declined to evaluate all three quarterbacks, flatly stating they weren’t good enough to win.

“I thought I did a pretty good job when I was in,” Manuel said. “I thought the first unit, we did what we needed to do.

“If it was a point where Coach wanted us to continue to play and show what we needed to show, he would’ve done that. But I think he knows that this being our first game and we have another one coming up soon, I’m sure we’ll get more [chances] coming up.”

Bills General Manager Doug Whaley agreed that Manuel’s first performance, despite the stats, was solid.

“I think he looked calm back there,” Whaley said. “It looked like he was in control.

“Obviously, he missed a couple. Disappointing with the knockdowns, but when you’ve got [Giants defensive end Mathias] Kiwanuka out there with those long vines, that’s going to happen. From the naked eye it didn’t even look like he got off the line of scrimmage, but also know there’s progress to be made.”

Jeff Tuel replaced Manuel and completed 12 of his 17 throws for 74 yards. He tossed a 2-yard scoring dart to Robert Woods on a fourth-down play, but threw an0 interception in the end zone right be0fore halftime.

Thad Lewis played the entire second half and went 10 of 16 for 87 yards with an interception and a fumble.

...

Manuel targeted first-round draft choice Sammy Watkins three times, but they failed to connect. Two of the attempts were deflected at the line of scrimmage, and the other was a long misfire down the left sideline.

Watkins didn’t play beyond the Bills’ second offensive series.

...

Buffalo’s top running backs also had a short night. Fred Jackson carried twice for 6 yards. C.J. Spiller ran once for 2 yards. Neither was targeted in the passing game.

“It was up and down,” Jackson said of the running game. “We know it’s going to be like that, being the first preseason game of the year, but there was a lot of stuff we can go in and correct on film.”

...

With cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore (hip) and Leodis McKelvin (hip) resting, Ron Brooks and newcomer Corey Graham started.

Also notable about the early defensive lineup, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s first-string nickel package deployed Brandon Spikes and Nigel Bradham at linebacker.

The second-team defensive front was, from left to right, Manny Lawson, Stefan Charles, Corbin Bryant and Jarius Wynn.

...

David Baker once made the mistake of underestimating Jon Bon Jovi on pretty-face value.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s president advises others not to do the same.

“He was a great owner, a great marketer, a great businessman,” Baker said in the Fawcett Stadium press box Sunday night.

Bon Jovi is trying to buy the Bills. In hopes of stemming criticism over speculation he would move the team to Toronto, the rock star submitted a letter to The Buffalo News about his intentions to be loyal to Bills fans in Western New York.

Baker was Arena Football League commissioner when Bon Jovi owned the expansion Philadelphia Soul, which entered the AFL in 2004 and won the championship in 2008.

email: tgraham@buffnews.com

  • Paul Kawalerski

    Manuel still has a long way to go. Despite Manuel being "Calm"and "Ïn Control" he is just not making the plays. His reads are slow and he is getting balls batted down because he is glued on to his receiver with his eyes. I just don't see an NFL quality QB yet. Granted this is only the 1st of 5 preseason games, but he will have to improve quite a bit if we are going to make a playoff run. Tuel on the other hand looks like he has made good progress. His reads are quick and decisive, but he still makes some bad decisions throwing into coverage.

    On the defensive side they looked good, but the run is still finding big gaps. It seems like the LBs were not aggressive enough sealing the sides and that also includes the exterior linemen. Need to get that fixed. But overall they looked solid.

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    • gk90

      Excellent analysis Paul. I am hopeful for Manuel but not optimistic. I still wished the Bills had found another experienced qb after losing Kolb. EJ still needs to develop and he'll have to show some real progress soon.

      • Paul Kawalerski

        Good point about an experienced QB. They did pick up a QB coach, but a seasoned pro would have been a good move. I wasn't opposed to Vick coming here. Geno will benefit this year from his mentor.

    • Phil

      Despite being only the 2nd preseason game Friday, the pressure is squarely on Manuel. Because if he lays another egg against Carolina, all bets are off.

  • Vendettaroad

    QB - is a MAJOR QUESTION MARK. All BILLS fans need to keep their fingers crossed, legs and toes, that the coaches see something most of us don't!

  • Nick B

    Manuel is not the answer. This is a QB driven league and you will NOT make the playoffs without one. We have a lot of talent and our overall depth is better. But we will NOT make the playoffs this year because Manuel is not the answer!!!

  • Al Powell

    Let's see more "Tuel time". Go COUGS!

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About the reporters

Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining NFL.com as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.