- Associated Press - Friday, August 8, 2014

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - EJ Manuel’s first completion to Sammy Watkins will go down as nothing more than a 14-yard pass play in a meaningless preseason game.

But the Bills are hoping it’s the start of something special.

Manuel completed 9 of 13 passes for 96 yards and Watkins hauled in his first three NFL receptions for 21 yards as the Bills defeated the Carolina Panthers 20-18 Friday night.

“I was happy for him,” Manuel said. “I gave him a high-five and told him, ‘Welcome to the NFL.’”

Watkins said the chemistry between the team’s first-round draft picks is getting better with each passing day.

“It’s building,” Watkins said. “We’ve got a long way to go, but at the same time we understand that he’s young and I’m young and we’ll get better.”

Cam Newton didn’t play for Carolina, as coach Ron Rivera held out his Pro Bowl quarterback to rest his ankle following offseason surgery.

“He’s right on track and we’re not overly concerned,” Rivera said, adding that he expects Newton to play Aug. 17 against Kansas City.

Buffalo’s offense still needs some work.

For the second straight week the Bills struggled turning scoring opportunities into points.

Buffalo’s first-team offense reached Carolina territory on its first three possessions but managed just three points after being stuffed on a pair of Fred Jackson runs near the goal line.

“We had yardage, we moved the ball,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said. “In those situations, which we work on very hard, we have to do a better job of taking advantage of those opportunities. Right now, we’re on the back end of what we want to convert statistically.”

Manuel doesn’t seem too concerned.

“We did a very good job at executing what we wanted to execute,” Manuel said.

The Panthers offense got a glimpse of their future at wide receiver, too.

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