- Mike Rodak, ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter
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Put Sammy Watkins on the board. After Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel was unable to connect with his rookie receiver in Sunday's Hall of Fame Game, Manuel found Watkins three times early in the Bills' 20-18 win over the Carolina Panthers on Friday night. Manuel's 9-for-13 outing was part of an improved effort from the Bills' first-team offense, which reached the red zone twice in their three drives in the game.
Here are some thoughts on the Bills' preseason win:
The Bills' defense got back on track with their third, final drive of the game, forcing a three-and-out. Outside of the Panthers' touchdown drive Friday night, the Bills' first-team defense has allowed six total yards on its other four series this preseason. It starts up front, where the defensive line continues to live up to its billing as the NFL's best.
The Bills have question marks along their offensive line, so it came as no surprise that four of its starters -- besides center Eric Wood -- played deep into the first half. Cyril Richardson, who continued to rotate with Kraig Urbik at right guard, had a miscue that led to a Greg Hardy sack in the first quarter. Left guard Chris Williams, a veteran addition this offseason, also had a noticeable slip-up on a third down in the second quarter when Manuel was still on the field.
After Jeff Tuel replaced Manuel in Sunday's opener, Thad Lewis was the Bills' top backup Friday. That was likely the case of the Bills wanting to give Lewis -- who is locked in a battle with Tuel -- some reps with the second team. Lewis went 6-for-11 and wasn't able to move the ball before handing it over to Tuel. However, the results weren't much better for Tuel, who overthrew Marcus Easley and was intercepted on his third pass. Tuel finished 4-for-5, tossing a late one-yard touchdown pass to Chris Summers.
Put Sammy Watkins on the board. After Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel was unable to connect with his rookie receiver in Sunday's Hall of Fame Game, Manuel found Watkins three times early in the Bills' 20-18 win over the Carolina Panthers on Friday night.