. (WGR 550) -- I always try to stay very even keeled during the preseason. It’s the time to work on things and try to improve at the things you don’t do well.
A great example of that are all the fourth downs Doug Marrone has gone on in the three preseason games. If it were the regular season, he likely would’ve taken field goals and come away with points, but his team is not good at short yardage and in this preseason, can’t get the ball in the end zone.
I really want to sit here and say its preseason and it doesn’t concern me that EJ Manuel and the first offense have had 10 drives and have not scored a touchdown. I’d be lying if I told you that because concern has crept in.
Certainly Manuel has not been awful. I think he looked real good in Carolina and he was OK in Pittsburgh. I don’t think the Giants game even counts since Marrone thought his second year quarterback didn’t need the work.
Manuel led five drives against the Steelers. Buffalo had an 11 play, 39 yard drive and kicked a field goal.
The second drive was six plays and 12 yards and Manuel was intercepted.
The third drive was 11 plays and 56 yards and Buffalo got another Dan Carpenter field goal.
The fourth was nine plays and 66 yards with Pittsburgh taking over on downs at their own 25.
The final drive going into halftime was also stopped on downs at the Steelers three. It was 10 plays and 39 yards.
The concern is Buffalo had the ball for almost 21 of the 30 minutes in the first half. They outgained the Steelers 212-138 and had 12 first downs to Pittsburgh’s five, yet the Bills trailed 13-6.
Manuel was 17 of 27 which means he completed 63 percent of his passes. Fred Jackson averaged 4.5 yards per carry and had seven receptions, so why no touchdowns?
Let’s take a closer look at the five drives. Buffalo had 1st and 10 at the Pittsburgh 28. The first two plays were passes to Jackson and gained nine yards leaving them with 3rd and 1. Manuel tried a short pass to Robert Woods and it was incomplete. It left 4th and 1 from the Pittsburgh 19 and I think Marrone should’ve tried on 4th down again. I don’t know what that field goal did for them considering its preseason.
The defense gave up a 76 yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown and Buffalo was behind.
In drive number two, Manuel found Mike Williams for 10 yards on the second play and faced a 2nd and 15 from his own 46. Even though Scott Chandler was well covered down the seam, Manuel went there anyway and was intercepted at the Steelers 36.
As we head to the third drive, Manuel was called for intentional grounding setting up a 3rd and 27. He completed a pass to Chandler for 24 yards setting up 4th and 3 from the Pittsburgh 35. Yes, they got another field goal, but practicing another fourth down play and trying to get a touchdown I think would’ve served them better.
In the fourth drive Manuel started at his own 14 and smartly moved his team down field highlighted by a 30 yard completion to Woods. With 1st and 10 at the Pittsburgh 34, Anthony Dixon and Chandler got nine yards. Dixon was stuffed on third down and this time Marrone did go on 4th and 1 only to see Manuel miss T.J. Graham.
Nickell Robey got the Bills the ball back with a gorgeous interception setting Buffalo up at the Pittsburgh 42 with 4:11 left in the half. A pass up the middle to Jackson gave them 1st and goal from the Steelers six. A short pass to Jackson was incomplete, Jackson ran for three yards and then on 3rd and goal from the three, Manuel was incomplete to Woods and then Chandler ending the drive and the half.
Manuel is a very positive man and he would never admit if he panics a little when they get in the red zone. On the other hand, he’s only played 10 regular season games in the NFL. He is also still learning. His offensive coordinator Nate Hackett is in his second season. Is he leading the offense the way it needs to be led or his he in over his head? Is he calling the right plays when his offense gets close?
The three road games are done so now its two home games vs. Tampa Bay and Detroit before things get started for real. It should be easier to score at home, but Manuel will be lucky to see more then one or two series against the Lions, so this Saturday I think is very important for him and the first team offense.