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NFL Preseason Preview - Buffalo (0-0) at Indianapolis (0-0)



By John McMullen, NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - The Doug Marrone era in Buffalo will begin this Sunday in Indianapolis when the Bills visit second-year star Andrew Luck and the Colts.

With Ryan Fitzpatrick now in Tennessee, Marrone's first order of business is finding a long term answer at quarterback. It looked like the early plan would be veteran Kevin Kolb holding down the fort until rookie E.J. Manuel, a very raw prospect, was ready.

Manuel now looks he will be asked to hit the ground running after being selected No. 16 overall. Kolb hasn't practiced since aggravating his knee last Saturday when slipping on a mat between two practice field and the Bills are uncertain if he will be ready for the Colts.

In Kolb's absence, Manuel has taken all the first-team work and now is more than 100 repetitions ahead of Kolb at training camp, according to the team's website.

"I communicated with Kevin and he said he worked out and did what he had to do from rehabilitation stand point, so he felt good, really good," Marrone said Thursday. "Kevin is that type of guy to be the tough kid, so it's just a matter of when he comes back in, our doctors will look at him. We're still planning on him hitting the ground sometime late tonight and being here sometime (Friday)."

Of course Bills general manager Doug Whaley has already said: "(Manuel) has that 'it' factor" and is "going to be the face of our franchise" so expect him to get every opportunity to win the starting job.

Buffalo was able to prop up the weapons around the QB position by drafting receivers Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin in an effort to find a complement to Stevie Johnson. Woods, a USC product, was probably the best route-runner available and a player who has been in a pro-style offense for years.

On the other side of the ball, Mario Williams needs to step it up and become a dominant player again while rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso, a pretty instinctive guy, will be asked to step in immediately.

"I think you have to do things that you want to do during the year so you know how it works," Marrone said when talking about his first preseason affair. "And then I think I'm still in the evaluation process trying to figure out who this squad is going to be. Who this 53 is going to be. So I think it's unfair as a coach to sit here and say 'Hey I'm going to do this and show this because I don't want anyone to know during the season,� when you don't really have your roster set."

The Colts hope to build on a promising first season with Luck at the controls.

To move forward even further Indianapolis needs to protect Luck more consistently and develop a threat in the running game.

Indy did pry right tackle Gosder Cherilus away from Detroit in free agency and drafted High Thornton, an overachieving, grinder who figures to help at guard. Meanwhile, the Colts signed Ahmad Bradshaw to carry the load in the backfield but the ex-Giant is still recovering from offseason surgery on his right foot and will be brought along slowly.

Improving the pass rush is mission No. 1 on defense and rookie Bjoern Werner, who was once thought of as a top-10 guy until questions about his closing speed sent him tumbling, is the kind of high-energy product who could eventually replace Dwight Freeney and help the aging Robert Mathis on the edge.

The Bills and Colts have split six prior meetings in the preseason.

08/09 12:02:43 ET


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