It will be the final game of the NFL's preseason Week 1 as the Indianapolis Colts play host to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at 1:30 pm at Lucas Oil Stadium and Buffalo's top draft choice will get the start.
With Kevin Kolb still not 100 percent healthy coming off a freak knee injury, Manuel earned the start.
"It's a dream come true," said Manuel. "Every day is a new day for me and like I've said, I just want to get better each day, so just go out there and get my first game action and I'll be excited."
Kolb an emergency QBWith Kevin Kolb unable to do anything more than participate in individual position drills and some one-on-one passing drills with the receivers before heading to the locker room with a member of the athletic training staff Friday night, head coach Doug Marrone had little choice but to make Kolb a game time decision for Sunday's game.
"I think we all know that Kevin has been gone for a couple of days and coming off an injury and we're just working him back in and we're going to dress him for the game, but EJ will start the game," said Marrone. "He is going to dress and he is going to be there and knock on wood if we do need one we'll put him in there and he'll just be handing the ball off and not put him in jeopardy."
Playing time open endedWhat isn't clear is just how long the starting units will go on both sides of the ball for the Bills. Marrone has a different philosophy on the approach he'd like his players to take to the length of playing time in preseason games.
"If you're healthy then you in your mind have to be prepared to play the whole game," said Marrone.
"I've been through this quite a bit and sometimes you have injuries during the game and if you told the player he's only playing this amount of time and then you have to put him back in there his mindset is a little bit different. And he probably has a chance to get injured if he's not mentally prepared to go in there.
"I told the team if you're healthy in your mind you have to be prepared to play the whole game. That's how you have to look at it until I take you out."
Knowing Kolb is unlikely to enter the game, Manuel could play as much as a half of football with fellow rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel playing the second half.
Rehabbing players to be limitedPlayers coming off long offseason rehabs like Scott Chandler and Kyle Williams will be limited in Sunday's preseason opener.
"I think the guys that are coming back that are limited, we'll go ahead and work them in and see how they feel before the game and then we'll try to put them on what I call a pitch count as far as plays," said Marrone.
Buffalo's head coach also put Mario Williams into this category as he's been trying to overcome a nagging foot injury.
McKelvin, Brad Smith outLeodis McKelvin and Brad Smith are the two newest players ruled out of Sunday's preseason game at Indianapolis. McKelvin has a groin injury, though it's not related to his offseason surgery.
Brad Smith missed practice with an undisclosed injury Friday and will not make the trip either.
Also ruled out due to injury are wide receivers Kevin Elliott and Stevie Johnson, tight end Mike Caussin, cornerback Justin Rogers and defensive tackle Aaron Tipoti.
Players feel preparedDespite the fact that the systems are new on all three sides of the ball the players feel they've been coached up well leading up to the first preseason game.
"We've had a lot of our offense in for a while even on the first day we came back for training camp we had 90 percent of the offense in," said Kraig Urbik. "So we've just had a lot of days of running the same plays over and over and over, just against different fronts. Our defense puts in a lot of fronts, four down, three down or whatever. We feel like we're prepared for the first game and we're excited to get out there and hit someone else besides our own players."
Though the outcome of the game doesn't count, it's not discouraging the players from giving their all.
"We definitely want to come out with a win," said Nigel Bradham. "Anytime we go on the field, we want to come out with a win. That's one of our goals. It's going to be a good game, we really will find ourselves as a team go through a lot of things and communications and see where we are in a game like situation. So it's pretty much being prepared for it and ready, that's how we have to be."
Not so vanillaTypically NFL coaches keep things very close to the vest when it comes to putting some of their better plays on tape in the preseason for their regular season opponents to study. They often keep their play calling very basic in the preseason to avoid giving a future opponent any opportunity to acquire additional information in preparation for playing them.
That won't be the case for the Bills on both sides of the ball.
"I've been in the same place as a coordinator, going in and talking about what we want our philosophy to be. I think you have to do things that you want to do during the year so you know how it works," said Marrone. "I'm still in the evaluation process trying to figure out who this squad is going to be. Who are the 53 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."
On defense coordinator Mike Pettine has a host of different looks for the multiple scheme that he employs. He too does not intend to keep things simple on Sunday.
"I've never been one to scale it back and be vanilla in a pre-season game," said Pettine. "So we're going to be a pressure defense and we're going to pressure in the pre-season and we're going to pressure in the regular season.
"We might not carry as many calls or game plan for a particular pre-season opponent, but percentage-wise and just kind of how we are, we need to get our players ready to handle that in the season so I don't want to be very vanilla and then all of a sudden our guys aren't used to it. To me, there's no better work than live work, and we get four opportunities with it with the pre-season opponents."
The Colts offense aired it out last season with top draft choice Andrew Luck ranking second in the league in 2012 to only New Orleans' Drew Brees (66) in number of completions of 20-plus yards with 65. With offensive coordinator Bruce Arians now the head coach in Arizona, Pep Hamilton is the Colts' new offensive coordinator.
Hamilton is taking a more conservative approach with the offense, preaching a power running game to take some of the heat off of Luck, who had the fifth-most pass attempts in the league last year (627). Vick Ballard, who rushed for a team-leading 814 yards in 2012, is the projected starter.
Indianapolis' new offensive play caller is also featuring a two tight-end attack similar to that of New England with Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. Allen however, will not play Sunday due to a foot injury.
Among the new additions this offseason for the Colts are WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (OAK), DT Aubrayo Franklin (SD), S LaRon Landry (NYJ), G Donald Thomas (NE) and RB Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG), who is still on Active PUP.
Much like the Bills, Indianapolis' top draft choice hailed from Florida State. While Buffalo chose E.J. Manuel with the 16th overall pick in round one, the Colts took Seminoles' pass rusher Bjoern Werner just eight picks later.
Those players that have missed practice for the Colts this week due to injury include notables the tight end Allen (foot), Heyward-Bey (knee), Landry and LB Jerrell Freeman.