The Buffalo Bills took the field for their first preseason game and the aerial game was apparent from the get go. As the first half progressed, starting rookie quarterback EJ Manuel was able to find his rhythm with his receivers. He completed 16 of 21 to eight different receivers, including a two minute drill that allowed the Bills to score a touchdown. Manuel was able to develop a favorite target in Robert Woods, but also showed the ability to spread the wealth including passes to running backs Fred Jackson and Tashard Choice and then the touchdown throw to tight end Dorin Dickerson.
Even when backup Jeff Tuel came in, the offense was able to keep the pedal to the floor. Tuel showed a good connection with Marcus Easley on the first drive of the 3rd quarter, completing three passes on the way to a touchdown catch by Da’Rick Rogers. In total, Tuel and Easely connected for seven passes before Easley was removed in the fourth quarter. Easley ended up leading the team in receiving yards with 94.
The noted Da’Rick Rogers touchdown catch was one that flashed the receiver’s quick moves. Rogers was able to free himself from his defender on a slant pattern with his shifty fakes before settling in a soft spot on the defense. The down side of Rogers was on the 4th quarter fumble by Tuel. Rogers was within five yards of the ball and failed to realize the play was still alive, and try to recover the fumble or make the tackle. Rogers will have to show more awareness and a sense of urgency as the preseason progresses if he wants to make the team.
The other rookies making contributions were Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin. Though Goodwin did not see any passes in his direction, he flashed his speed taking a kickoff back for a touchdown and had another go for a near-50 yard return. Woods started shaky — fumbling a punt, but when on offense he was able to show good timing with quarterback EJ Manuel, hauling in four passes for 32 yards.
As a whole, the receivers showed promise and consistency, something that last year’s group, minus Stevie Johnson, didn’t show. Once Stevie Johnson does return from his injuries the receiving corps could challenge to be the best group in the division; if not this year, then certainly next as they and the quarterback continue to develop.