AFC East: Kevin Kolb

Happy Monday. We've arrived at what is typically the busiest week of the NFL offseason.

Since Saturday, teams have been able to enter into talks with opposing teams' free agents. Starting Tuesday at 4 p.m., deals can become official.

Until then, let's recap what we've learned over the past few days:

1. The Bills will need to make a decision on several players who are due large roster bonuses this week. Quarterback Kevin Kolb ($1 million) and linebacker Manny Lawson ($500,000) are both due roster bonuses on Thursday. On Saturday, the Bills owe wide receiver Stevie Johnson a $1.75 million roster bonus. Last week, Bills general manager Doug Whaley addressed Kolb's situation with John Kryk of the Toronto Sun. "It's a tricky situation," Whaley told Kryk. "We're going to be very careful how we handle this, and the foremost consideration in the whole equation is him being healthy." It would be a surprise if Kolb remains with the team past this week. Lawson and Johnson are longer shots to be released but their situations still bear watching.

2. Last week, the Bills hosted linebackers Jameel McClain and Jasper Brinkley, who were both released by their former teams. Brinkley could be off the market soon, as Fox Sports' Mike Garafolo reported Sunday that the Minnesota Vikings will bring back Brinkley on a one-year deal. Meanwhile, McClain will still meet with the Vikings on Monday, reports 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson. We ranked linebacker as the Bills' top free-agent need and we wouldn't be surprised if the Bills made a play to sign one of the top free-agent linebackers available. Jon Beason and Karlos Dansby are among those who are hitting the open market this week.

3. ESPN.com Miami Dolphins reporter James Walker reported Monday that safety Jairus Byrd is seeking a deal that pays him at least $9 million per season. That would make Byrd the highest-paid safety in the NFL, at least in terms of average salary per season. The NFL Network reported over the weekend that the Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams have expressed interest in Byrd.

4. While Tuesday is the start of the free-agent signing period, it's also the first day that teams can complete trades. At this point, don't rule out activity on that end from the Bills.
On Friday, we asked the following question: What did we learn about the Buffalo Bills in February?

Now we'll ask this: What do we expect to learn about the Bills in March?

As the Bills move into the third month of the offseason, here's what is on the radar:

[+] EnlargeByrd
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesSafety Jairus Byrd likely will be testing the free-agent market later this week.
Does Byrd stay grounded in Buffalo? We'll get a better sense for this later Monday, when the NFL's deadline to assign the franchise tag passes. If the Bills don't tag Jairus Byrd, then he can begin negotiating with other teams Saturday. The Bills, according to the Associated Press, are no longer negotiating with Byrd after offering him a deal that would have paid him $30 million over the first three seasons. Regardless of the Bills' offer, Byrd has waited a long time to hit the open market and will soon get his chance. His days in Buffalo could be numbered.

What will happen to the Toronto series? The Bills have played a regular-season game in Toronto for the past six seasons, but that could soon come to an end. The Bills have delayed sending invoices to their season-ticket holders, which are typically sent in early February. The delay could be related to the team needing to make a decision on hosting an eighth home game, which would be added to the slate if the Toronto series is ended. In January, CEO Russ Brandon said the team would "evaluate" the game after concerns about game atmosphere and dwindling attendance.

Where do Bills turn in free agency? With the NFL salary cap set at $133 million and the Bills carrying over almost $18 million of unused cap space, they are in relatively good cap health entering the start of the free-agent signing period. If they do not franchise Byrd and do not give him a lucrative extension, they will have greater spending power on the open market. As of Saturday, the Bills were $25 million under their adjusted 2014 salary cap. Where may that money go? The Bills will need help at safety if Byrd leaves, while they could add veteran help at wide receiver, tight end, and offensive line to supplement potential draft choices at those positions.

Testing the trade market: General manager Doug Whaley used the trade market to his advantage last offseason, dealing linebacker Kelvin Sheppard to the Indianapolis Colts for defensive end Jerry Hughes. That move paid dividends for the Bills' defense and could open the door for similar deals to happen this offseason. The NFL allows trades beginning March 11.

Cap cuts: Even with $25 million in cap space, the Bills could create more room by releasing quarterback Kevin Kolb. At 29, the future of his NFL career is in doubt after a season-ending concussion last August. Kolb is due a $1 million roster bonus this month and the Bills would avoid paying it -- and his $2 million base salary -- by releasing him.
The snow may still be flying, but February -- the second month of the offseason -- is coming to a close today.

Four weeks ago, we asked what we would learn about the Buffalo Bills this month.

Here are the answers to most of those questions, along with some other developments:

[+] EnlargeAndre Reed
AP Photo/NFL PhotosAndre Reed is the latest member of the Bills to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Reed elected to Hall of Fame: After eight consecutive years as a finalist, former Bills receiver Andre Reed was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this month and will be inducted on Aug. 2. He becomes the 10th Bills player, coach, or contributor to be enshrined in Canton, and the first since owner Ralph Wilson and defensive end Bruce Smith were inducted in 2009. Reed will be presented by former coach and fellow Hall of Famer Marv Levy. The current Bills will be in town for the festivities, beginning their preseason against the New York Giants in the Hall of Fame game.

New York State forms committee: Included in the Bills' 10-year lease with Erie County is a provision to form a 21-member committee that will explore options for a new stadium. Earlier this month, New York State named the first five members to the group, but the Bills or the county have yet to announce any appointments. The Bills released a statement saying that they were "appreciative" of the state's efforts but that their focus remained on a major renovation to Ralph Wilson Stadium. There are concerns if building a new, modern NFL stadium is viable in Buffalo -- one of the NFL's smallest markets -- while the uncertain future of Bills ownership could stall any efforts of the committee.

No cuts, yet: All NFL teams could begin releasing players the Monday after the Super Bowl. The Bills are one of many teams that have yet to make any moves. In terms of cap space, the Bills should be comfortable; they have one of the NFL's highest carry-overs of unused cap space from last season. The future of quarterback Kevin Kolb remains something to watch as the new league year approaches in mid-March.

Coaching staff set: The Bills rounded out their coaching staff this month, hiring Rob Moore as wide receivers coach and promoting Jason Rebrovich to assistant defensive line coach. Both were assistants for Doug Marrone at Syracuse. The Bills don't have any vacancies remaining among position coaches, but could still add quality-control coaches to their staff later this spring.

No ROY for Kiko: Linebacker Kiko Alonso finished second in voting for the Associated Press' Defensive Player of the Year Award, which was announced on Feb. 1. The honor instead went to New York Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. Alonso still took home the Pro Football Writers of America's version of the award in January, becoming the first Bills rookie defender honored since Shane Conlan in 1987.

Examining potential Bills cap cuts

February, 3, 2014
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With Super Bowl XLVIII in the books, Monday is the first official day of the 2014 NFL offseason.

It's also the first day teams can release players who are under contract for next season. In some cases, teams might release players to free up salary-cap room. In other cases, the team might determine the player isn't valued as highly in a new scheme.

Both scenarios could come into play with the Buffalo Bills. The NFL hasn't announced an exact salary cap for next season, but the Bills are currently projected to be in the middle of the pack in terms of cap space.

While the Bills will have sufficient cap space to make free-agent moves this offseason, it's typical for some players to be released for financial purposes. Here's our best guess which players could be on the outs in Buffalo:

Kolb
QB Kevin Kolb: What's not clear is how Kolb has recovered from an August concussion that ended his season. What is clear is that the Bills view EJ Manuel as their starting quarterback entering next season, so Kolb -- even if healthy -- would enter the offseason as a backup. With a $3.6 cap number, including a $1 million roster bonus, it's hard to see that happening. It would be a surprise if Kolb remains on the roster at the start of the 2014 league year in March.

WR Stevie Johnson: Johnson could be one of the toughest calls the Bills make this offseason. He's under contract through 2016, so by releasing him now, the Bills would have to absorb significant "dead money" this season. The true savings in releasing Johnson would come in 2015 and 2016. If the Bills feel like Johnson isn't a fit within their offense, they could make the decision to cut ties with him now. He's due a $1.75 roster bonus in March that essentially sets a deadline for that decision to happen. Unless they want to take a larger "dead money" hit, they can't wait until May to see if Sammy Watkins, the top receiver in the draft, is still on the board at ninth overall.

Moeaki
TE Tony Moeaki: Once Moeaki recovered from a preseason injury last season, he signed a two-year contract with the Bills. He's due a $1 million base salary, a $250,000 roster bonus, and a $100,000 workout bonus this offseason, which suggests the Bills had competition in signing him. Still, Moeaki did not play an offensive snap after being signed in early December. If the Bills feel like things will come together with Moeaki by next season, perhaps he'll stay in the fold under his current deal. If not, it's possible they cut ties with him.

OT Erik Pears: Pears started 16 games this season for the Bills, but there have been indications that the Bills want to upgrade along their offensive line. The journeyman right tackle turns 32 in June and has a $3.75 million cap number. The Bills could deem that too rich for a position they could target in May's draft. This could be a case where the Bills could ask Pears to restructure in order to remain in Buffalo.

OT Chris Hairston: Hairston, who spent all of last season on the non-football illness list, has a cap hit of about $750,000. That's not significant on its own, but it's also not clear where Hairston stands health-wise. If he can't pass a physical or can't participate in the offseason program, he could be released. Hairston started 15 games between 2011 and 2012, but it's not known how the current coaching staff views the former fourth-round pick.

OLB Manny Lawson: The potential for Lawson to be released moves onto the radar under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Lawson is considered to better fit in Mike Pettine's defensive scheme, where the 'Sam' linebacker plays closer to the line of scrimmage and is used more as a blitzer. In Schwartz's system, both outside linebackers typically play off the line of scrimmage and are used 'in space,' requiring better athleticism. Lawson will turn 30 this summer and doesn't have excellent range as an off-the-line player. Even though Lawson brought a veteran presence to the locker room, it's possible the Bills look to restructure his contract or release him. He has a $3.1 million cap number this season, but is signed through 2016, so like Johnson, the cap savings could come down the road.

What's next for Bills at quarterback?

August, 25, 2013
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Sharing some leftover thoughts on the the Buffalo Bills' quarterback position following the team's 30-7 loss to the Washington Redskins on Saturday:
  1. The Bills' situation at quarterback looks dire in the immediate aftermath of losing both EJ Manuel and Kevin Kolb to injuries, but it is important to remember that both could still be back in a matter of weeks or even days. Things can change quickly for better or worse in the NFL, and the Bills quarterback position is no different.
  2. With that said, the Bills do have a major problem to handle in the coming days. Just ask head coach Doug Marrone: "I'm not going to sit here and say everything is fine and dandy. It's a concern," he said after Saturday's game. Bringing in a quarterback off the street with two weeks until the regular season opener and tasking him with potentially starting that game is not a place any team wants to find itself.
  3. Adding to the urgency of the moment is the Bills' schedule: they open in Week 1 with perhaps their most important game of the season, hosting the New England Patriots. The Bills were able to take down the Patriots at home in 2011, and played a strong first half last season before things came unraveled. Without Manuel or Kolb, it's a much tougher task. Getting either player back in time for Sept. 8 is key, but injuries aren't something that can be controlled.
  4. Along those lines, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett's master plan to dictate the pace of games is now moot, at least for the time being. The Bills will need to slow down and simplify their offense in practice for whatever free-agent quarterback they bring in. And if they have to turn to Jeff Tuel at any point, staying conservative with their play calls is the best way to protect their "other" rookie quarterback. The Bills are now in survival mode, and the most complex of Hackett's schemes are crumpled in the trash, for now.
  5. What in the world were the Bills thinking by letting C.J. Spiller back into the game on Saturday? Sure, it was only a minor cut on his knee, but seeing your franchise running back lying on his back, grabbing for his right knee in a preseason game should be enough of an omen to keep him glued to the bench until Sept. 8. What made the decision even more questionable was that Spiller returned after Kolb had departed for the locker room. If you know your top two quarterbacks are hurt, why not do everything to protect your best remaining asset on offense? Football players will always want to play football, but it's also a business, and that was a true head-scratcher.
When Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel went 19-for-23 passing for 212 yards in a win over the Indianapolis Colts two weeks ago, it was one of those preseason headlines that wrote itself.

"Tuel time," some called it. Nice little ring to that one.

But after Kevin Kolb left Saturday's game with a possible concussion, "Tuel time" has a whole new meaning for Bills fans:

"Uh-oh."

[+] EnlargeJeff Tuel
AP Photo/Nick WassWith injuries to EJ Manuel and, on Saturday, Kevin Kolb, the Bills could be looking at undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel, above, at quarterback.
The Bills are officially in a bind. An undrafted rookie from Washington State, Tuel is now the lone healthy quarterback on Buffalo's roster.

It's a nightmare scenario for first-year general manager Doug Whaley, who told the Buffalo News after Saturday's 30-7 loss to the Washington Redskins that the Bills will now need to search the free-agent market for another quarterback.

The options out there are limited (Tyler Thigpen, anyone?), and with just more than two weeks until the regular-season opener, it won't be easy for any new quarterback to learn the offense and be ready for game action.

Still, the Bills have scheduled a workout on Sunday with former first-round pick Matt Leinart, and will also host John Beck on a free-agent visit, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter confirmed. Leinart or Beck would have the advantage of experience over Tuel if the Bills needed to make that decision for their opener.

The next 10 days could be crucial in deciding the early course of the Bills' regular season. Rookie EJ Manuel is recovering from a "minor" procedure on his left knee, while Kolb will be evaluated for a possible concussion. The Bills' game plan for their opener against the New England Patriots will be in place by Sept. 4, and they will need to pick a quarterback by then.

If it's Tuel, the Bills are in a real tough spot. Performing well in the second half of a preseason opener is one thing, but once the regular season starts, it's the real deal. Having an undrafted rookie as your starting quarterback, even out of necessity, is playing with fire in the NFL.

Tuel's performance on Saturday (10-for-17, 63 yards) is along the lines of what you could expect against New England, if it comes down to him starting. He's shown the poise to handle the situation without making it a disaster, but the game will need to be won another way.

When the Bills began training camp nearly a month ago, the team's brass liked to talk about how offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett would bring an up-tempo philosophy to the offense that would keep defenses on their toes.

But now, it's the Bills on their heels. With Tuel, they would have likely the NFL's worst starting quarterback.

And that's not the Bills' fault. It's not Tuel's fault. It's just bad luck.

Observation deck: Bills-Redskins

August, 24, 2013
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Observations from the Buffalo Bills' 30-7 preseason loss to the Washington Redskins on Saturday:

Kolb has possible concussion: With rookie EJ Manuel sidelined following knee surgery, Saturday's game was supposed to be veteran Kevin Kolb's chance to make his mark in the quarterback competition. However, Kolb left in the first quarter with a possible concussion. On a third-and-5 run on the second offensive drive, Kolb scrambled for 8 yards -- and the first down -- but was kneed in the back of his helmet by a Redskins defender. He stayed in the game for four plays but departed for the locker room soon after. Kolb finished 2-for-4 passing for 16 yards.

Tuel's time: Once Kolb left the game, the Bills were down to just one healthy quarterback. Undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel saw his most extensive action of the preseason, which was valuable playing time for the Washington State product. Tuel completed 10 of 17 passes for 63 yards, an underwhelming performance on just about any other day. But for Tuel and the Bills, the most important statistic was that Tuel did not throw any interceptions. If the Bills are without Manuel and Kolb for the regular-season opener -- a possibility the Bills must now consider -- then avoiding critical mistakes is what the team will need more than anything from Tuel.

Gilmore injured: Flying under the radar Saturday was cornerback Stephon Gilmore leaving the game in the second quarter with a wrist injury. He did not return. Gilmore is the Bills' top cornerback and is another hit to a position that has seen several players hobbled this preseason. If Gilmore misses any extended action, it would be a big blow to Buffalo's defense.

Defense takes step back: After a strong outing in their win over the Minnesota Vikings, the Bills defense did not have answers for the Redskins offense on Saturday. Buffalo allowed 452 total yards, 27 first downs and 208 yards rushing yards. Part of that can be attributed to an anemic offense -- the Bills were crushed 38:52 to 21:08 in time of possession -- but it was hardly an encouraging sign from Mike Pettine's group. Even without Robert Griffin III, the Redskins were able to get solid performances from Rex Grossman (11-for-21, 171 yards, one touchdown) and Pat White (7-for-14, 96 yards, one rushing touchdown) at quarterback.

Spiller's scare: Running back C.J. Spiller was slow to get up after a 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and grabbed his right knee after the play. The injury, which brought coach Doug Marrone onto the field to check on Spiller, turned out not to be serious, and Spiller returned to the game. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that Spiller was simply cut on his knee after being spiked.

What's next: The Bills will return to their practice facility in Orchard Park, N.Y., for the first time this preseason before hosting their preseason finale against the Detroit Lions next Thursday. They will have to cut down their roster to 75 players (Tuesday) and 53 players (Saturday) by the end of next week.
The Buffalo Bills trail the Washington Redskins 20-7 at halftime of Saturday's preseason contest, but the game's first half has been defined by injuries.

Quarterback Kevin Kolb left the game in the first quarter with concussion-like symptoms and will not return, the team announced. Kolb had a chance to gain lost ground in the quarterback competition with EJ Manuel sitting out the rest of the preseason with an injury, but those plans were derailed by Kolb's head injury.

Undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel has been at the helm since Kolb departed. He's all the Bills have left at the position, so there's a feeling of Buffalo being on their heels for the remainder of this game. Even so, it's a prime opportunity for Tuel, who saw little action in last Friday's preseason game.

Meanwhile, running back C.J. Spiller gave the Bills their first injury scare of the game, grabbing for his right knee after a touchdown run in the first quarter. Spiller was initially limping, but he later returned to the game. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reports that Spiller simply cut his knee after being spiked.

In addition, cornerback Stephon Gilmore (hand) and safety Da'Norris Searcy (head) both left for the locker room for injury evaluation late in the first half.

The injuries have overshadowed what has been a rough outing for the Bills defense. The Redskins have gained 96 yards rushing in the first half, while quarterback Rex Grossman went 8-for-14 for 144 yards and a touchdown before handing the offense over to Pat White, who added a 14-yard touchdown run.

Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson, who is making his preseason debut after missing the first two games with a hamstring injury, lost a fumble early in the second quarter.

What to watch for: Bills-Redskins

August, 23, 2013
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The Buffalo Bills continue their preseason Saturday afternoon against the Washington Redskins. They'll be back on the road, providing one final test for most of their starters before Thursday's preseason finale. Kickoff at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., is at 4:30 p.m. ET.

[+] EnlargeKevin Kolb
Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY SportsThe Bills might need Kevin Kolb to start to begin the season.
Here's what to watch for:

  1. Kolb gets his shot: The Bills' quarterback competition is still in full swing. After another solid outing Aug. 16 against Minnesota, rookie EJ Manuel underwent knee surgery, knocking him out for the remainder of the preseason. That gives Kevin Kolb his best chance yet to make his mark in the battle. If he performs well, the Bills can breathe a sigh of relief at quarterback if Manuel isn't ready for the regular-season opener. Now three weeks removed from his freak knee injury, perhaps Kolb will show signs of improvement after a rocky start to his preseason.
  2. More Tuel time? Undrafted quarterback Jeff Tuel popped onto the radar after his impressive outing in the preseason opener, but he attempted only three passes in late-game action against Minnesota. It's hard to envision the Bills turning to Tuel as their starter, but he figures to see plenty of second-half snaps Saturday. A few weeks ago, he looked to be a top practice squad candidate, but now, with Manuel's injury, he is Kolb's only backup and is very much in the mix for a spot on the 53-man roster.
  3. Cleaning up the laundry: After the ongoing situation at quarterback, the Bills' biggest storyline this preseason has been their high number of penalties. They led the NFL with 23 flags through two games, and some of those penalties -- namely taunting and unsportsmanlike conduct -- can be considered marks of an undisciplined team. That's not the message coach Doug Marrone wants to send to the rest of the NFL. Cleaning up the penalty issue will be one of the team's priorities going into Saturday's game.
  4. Decision time at left guard, cornerback: The Bills entered training camp with an open competition at left guard. Veteran Colin Brown has started the first two preseason games at that spot and is the favorite to start again Saturday. Even so, it's too early to declare that battle over. Likewise, Leodis McKelvin looked to be settling in at cornerback opposite Stephon Gilmore before he missed the first two preseason games with an injury. The Bills have shuffled a number of candidates through that spot, and it will be worth monitoring who starts Saturday. Otherwise, very little intrigue remains at other positions; starting jobs are basically set.

Just when it looked as if things were coming together for rookie Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel, everything changed Saturday.

Manuel will undergo a "minor knee procedure" after an MRI revealed swelling in his left knee, the team announced.

It might be a "minor" procedure, but this is a major setback for the No. 16 pick in April's draft. Manuel had been in the driver's seat for the starting job after another solid preseason performance Friday night. He looked poised, comfortable and ready for the role.

Now, his status for the regular-season opener against the New England Patriots is in doubt. Even if Manuel is able to return in time for the regular season, his knee injury could be a lingering issue and, indeed, an ongoing storyline.

In Manuel's place, the Bills will turn to Kevin Kolb, who had a shaky debut Friday night as he played the entire first half. He will now have an opportunity to lead the Bills' offense.

Saturday's developments prove how quickly things can change in the NFL. One day after it appeared Manuel had all but locked up the starting job, Kolb has gotten his break in the competition.

Ups and downs for Bills

August, 17, 2013
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Revisiting Friday night's win over Minnesota by highlighting those Buffalo Bills players whose performance was "up," and those who fell into the opposite end of the spectrum:

UP

Chris Hogan: Continues to show up on offense, targeted a team-high seven times and finishing with a game-high four catches. Is docked, however, for a face-mask penalty early in the first quarter.

Jerry Hughes: Starting in place of Mario Williams, has two sacks and a forced fumble, leading a four-sack effort from the Bills.

EJ Manuel: Enters the game at the start of the second half and leads the Bills on an 80-yard touchdown drive. Isn't spectacular, but continues to avoid making critical mistakes.

Garrison Sanborn: Long snapper -- yes, the long snapper -- has two special-teams tackles (both on punts).

Robert Woods: Has a key 22-yard catch on a scoring drive late in the first half, and adds a 34-yard punt return in the second quarter.

DOWN

Colin Brown: Starts at left guard for a second straight game, but commits costly holding penalty in the red zone late in the first half.

Kevin Kolb: Has his first chance to outplay Manuel in a game, and finishes with a 55.9 quarterback rating, including an interception.

Nickell Robey: Undrafted rookie starts at cornerback but is flagged for defensive pass interference to extend a Vikings scoring drive in the first quarter, and is penalized for being offside in the second quarter.

Da'Rick Rogers: Rookie receiver is stuck at bottom of the depth chart, remaining on the sideline as DeMarco Sampson and others see late-game action.

Observation deck: Bills-Vikings

August, 16, 2013
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Observations from the Buffalo Bills' 20-16 preseason win over the Minnesota Vikings on Friday night:

Kolb gets his chance, plays full half: In his first action of the preseason, Kevin Kolb played the entire first half, finishing 13-of-21 passing for 111 yards and an interception. The Bills always have said they would give both Kolb and rookie EJ Manuel a fair shot at the starting job, and tonight might have been Kolb's best chance to prove himself. The results weren't overly positive, although Kolb led the Bills offense on two scoring drives late in the first half, looking more comfortable than he did in the early stages of the game.

Buffalo BillsManuel again solid, but not spectacular: Manuel entered the game at the start of the second half and led the Bills on an 80-yard touchdown drive, completing all six of his passes for 44 yards. More importantly, Manuel did not throw an interception for a second consecutive game. However, the Bills (or Manuel) opted not to take any shots downfield, something they are expected to incorporate into their offense this season. Instead, many of Manuel's throws were in the short range, but he did complete a 27-yard pass to rookie receiver Brandon Kaufman in the third quarter. Manuel also had the benefit of playing against the Vikings' second-team defense.

Penalties becoming a major issue: The Bills were flagged 14 times for 106 yards in the contest, one week after being penalized nine times against the Indianapolis Colts. The flags have to be a growing concern for head coach Doug Marrone, especially considering nine of them came in the first half, when many of his starters were still in the game. Among the flags was a key holding call in the red zone against Colin Brown, who made his second consecutive start at left guard. In what remains an open battle, that won't help his case.

Defense generating pressure: The Bills' defense kept the pressure on Vikings quarterbacks throughout the game, finishing with four sacks for 38 yards. Outside linebacker Jerry Hughes had two sacks, including a sack and forced fumble of Matt Cassel in the second quarter.

Hogan, young receivers making strides: First-year receiver Chris Hogan continued to stand out for the Bills, playing nearly the entire game. Hogan was the team's leading receiver with four catches for 34 yards and was targeted a team-high seven times. Meanwhile, Kaufman and Marcus Easley continue to be second-half standouts, with five catches for 91 yards between them. Undrafted rookie Da'Rick Rogers had a quiet night, being targeted twice and making one catch for six yards. On special teams, second-round pick Robert Woods returned a punt 34 yards, one week after third-round pick Marquise Goodwin had two long kickoff returns.

Mario sits out: Defensive end Mario Williams (foot) dressed but was announced as an inactive for the game. He played in two series in the preseason opener, and the Bills continue to manage the health this preseason of their highest-paid player.

What's next: The Bills return to St. John Fisher College for their final four practices of training camp, beginning Sunday. They travel to face the Washington Redskins in the third preseason game next Saturday.

Kolb shaky in his debut for Bills

August, 16, 2013
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After not playing in the preseason opener, Kevin Kolb got back into the Buffalo Bills' quarterback competition on Friday night, starting and playing the entire first half against the Minnesota Vikings.

Kolb
Kolb's results were mixed. He finished the first half 13-of-21 passing for 111 yards, but many of his completions came on check-downs to tight ends and running backs. Kolb also scrambled out of the pocket frequently, often throwing on the run.

The Bills were 2-for-9 on third down, and at one point in the second quarter Kolb was booed by some fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium after his pass to wide receiver Chris Hogan on third-and-8 fell incomplete.

Kolb also threw an interception in the first quarter, although his pass, intended for rookie receiver Marquise Goodwin along the sideline, was tipped by the defender in coverage before it was caught by Vikings safety Jamarca Sanford.

Late in the first half, Kolb began to look stronger, leading the Bills on a 13-play drive that was stunted in the red zone by a holding penalty on guard Colin Brown. But Buffalo was forced to punt after Kolb couldn't connect with running back Tashard Choice on third-and-12.

After the Bills regained possession with 38 seconds left in the half, Kolb had his best drive of the game, completing back-to-back passes to push the Bills into field-goal range.

Kolb finished the first half with a 55.9 quarterback rating. He was replaced by rookie EJ Manuel at the start of the second half.

Mario Williams among Bills' inactives

August, 16, 2013
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Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams (foot) will not play in tonight's preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings, the team announced.

Williams played two series in the Bills' preseason opener last Sunday, and has been limited throughout training camp with a foot injury.

"He keeps getting treatment to take care of his body," coach Doug Marrone said Wednesday. "Again, we’re just trying to be smart up and down, resting him for some time, just so he can make sure he just gets ready. Especially coming off this short week."

The Bills said Williams will dress for the game, meaning he would be available to play in an emergency.

Other Bills not playing tonight:
Not listed among the inactives are quarterback Kevin Kolb, wide receivers Brad Smith and Kevin Elliott, tight end Scott Chandler, and linebacker Keith Pough. All missed Sunday's win over Indianapolis.

What to watch for: Bills-Vikings

August, 16, 2013
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The Buffalo Bills continue their preseason on Friday night against the Minnesota Vikings. After opening on the road, the Bills will return to Ralph Wilson Stadium for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Here's what to watch for:
  1. How does Kolb bounce back? After missing a week of practice due to an injury and a death in the family, Kevin Kolb worked his way back into the competition at quarterback this week, and will start on Friday evening. Head coach Doug Marrone said not to read too much into Kolb starting, as the team's original plan was to start him in the opener and Manuel in tonight's game. With less than three weeks until the Bills begin their preparations for the New England Patriots in the season opener, the feeling on this end is that the job is Manuel's to lose. Still, all eyes will be on Kolb and if he shows any ill effects from his knee injury earlier in camp.
  2. Do the Bills open things up for Manuel? Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett appeared to keep quarterback EJ Manuel's reads simple in the preseason opener, as there was an obvious emphasis on shorter passes, sometimes to tight ends and running backs. Manuel passed that test, and it may be time for the Bills to take the next step with their rookie signal-caller. Manuel will come in after Kolb on Friday, and when he does, look for Hackett to mix in some deeper passes, which would be the latest challenge for Manuel and the team's rookie receivers.
  3. Can Tuel continue to creep onto radar? The intrigue at quarterback for the Bills trickles down to the third quarterback in camp, undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel. The Washington State product had an impressive showing in the preseason opener, completing 19 of 23 passes for 212 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. He figures to see extended time in the second half Friday, and with another positive outing could put himself in position to secure a 53-man roster spot. It's too early to debate if Tuel should earn the nod over Kolb as the No. 2 quarterback, but that idea could gain traction depending on how each player performs Friday.
  4. Another chance to catch Goodwin. Fans saw very little of Marquise Goodwin on Sunday's preseason opener, but when they did, he was explosive. Goodwin returned kickoffs for 53 and 107 yards, but played just 17 snaps on offense and wasn't targeted on any passes. While it will be worth watching each time Goodwin returns a kick, he also has the potential to use his speed to his advantage in the passing game. After a quiet opener on offense for Goodwin, maybe things will be different on Friday night.

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