Canton, Ohio (WGR 550) -- The last thing football fans would want is an additional pre-season game for their team but the Bills indeed have five of these prep contests.
Its okay though since the Bills can use that extra game to get EJ Manuel some valuable playing time. If only the Bills knew that.
For some reason, the Bills used Manuel like most teams use an established quarterback in their pre-season opener by giving him a cameo appearance. Manuel didn't look good in that limited time, which should have convinced the coaches to change their game plan and give the second year signal caller some additional reps whether the starters were out there or not.
Manuel played just two series against the Giants, which covered 10 plays and produced a total of 27 yards. The Bills ended up with a field goal out of those two possessions but it didn't take much considering the second drive began at the Giants 22 yard line after a turnover.
The first drive, which began at the Bills 17 yard line, featured a 2 yard CJ Spiller run which led to the question of why Spiller was even playing? Does one run for Spiller really make a difference in getting him ready? On second down Manuel connected on a short eight yard pass with Lee Smith. Manuel aired it out on the next play, throwing deep down the left sideline for first round pick Sammy Watkins but the ball landed a few yards beyond the speedy wide receiver. Two plays later, facing a third and three, Manuel was looking for Watkins once again but his pass was batted down at the line.
On the Bills second possession, Manuel couldn't take advantage of the short field as far as getting into the end zone. He tried though. On the first play, from the Giants 22 yard line, Manuel put the ball into the end zone for Mike Williams but it looked like he got tangled up with the Giants defensive back and couldn't make a play.
Even though it was incomplete, that is exactly the kind of throw the Bills want Manuel to make. He went for the end zone and trusted his receiver to make a play. My guess is we will see that pass again and see it pay off since Williams has shown the ability to win one on one battles like that during his career. I was glad to see Manuel attempt that play.
But Manuel's next pass was batted down at the line so two of his seven pass attempts on the night didn't make it beyond the line of scrimmage.
On third and 11, Manuel stared down Watkins and threw the ball right into a linebacker who stood in the path of that pass. Thankfully for Manuel, Jacquian Williams wasn't able to hang on for what looked like a sure interception.
Game over for Manuel who was taken out for Jeff Tuel. It makes no sense to have Manuel get such limited time. Here's a guy who is coming off a rookie season that was reduced to 10 regular season games due to injuries after missing pre-season time as well due to an injury.
He needs as many reps as possible in an effort to improve his game. I don't even care if he is out there with second stringers. You might say the chances of Manuel getting hurt will increase if he plays behind the backups along the offensive line but I'll tell you Manuel can get hurt at any point. He should be playing at least the entire first half in the first four pre-season games. If he's absolutely lighting it up at some point and the Bills want to get him out a little earlier, I can handle that but when he continues to struggle, I'd keep sending him back out there for more work.
For those of you that think Jeff Tuel, who led a 15 play, 80 yard touchdown drive, should get time with the starters, forget about it. Right now the Bills most important task is trying to figure out if Manuel can play in the NFL and I don't need to see Tuel take any valuable reps away from Manuel.
Manuel came into this game off his best practices of training camp but was unable to build on that in this ineffective outing.
Many of you were probably excited to see Watkins make his debut in a Bills uniform but it was a very quiet night in very limited action. Watkins was targeted three times but did not have a catch. Of course, two of those three targets to the Clemson product never got time him since they were knocked down at the line. The only pass that came his way was the bomb that missed him by a few yards.
So chapter one of the 2014 NFL season is in the record books for the Bills and we are right back where we have been with EJ Manuel, wondering whether or not he will turn out to be the guy.