PITTSFORD. N.Y. -- Cardale Jones apparently did not get the message, the one about NFL players not caring who wins or loses preseason games, because the rookie quarterback seemed genuinely disappointed that the Buffalo Bills dropped a 19-18 decision to the Colts Saturday.
"You guys can look at it however you want, good start, bad start, but we still lost the game," Jones said. "It's kind of hard to enjoy, you know. Hey, I played my first NFL game, had fun, (potential) game-winning drive but we didn't really get it done and that kind of falls on my shoulders being the quarterback on that last drive."
Jones, of course, was being a little harsh on himself. He played the final quarter and a half, and with the Bills trailing 19-12, Jones took the field with 1:03 left and marched Buffalo 83 yards to a touchdown, hitting Jarrett Boykin with a 4-yard scoring pass at the gun. However, Jones couldn't complete the rally as he misfired on a two-point conversion pass, which allowed the Colts to escape with the victory.
"It was a great experience and I'm looking forward to hopefully getting in more preseason games and who knows, we'll go from there," said Jones. "The experience was unbelievable. To get out there with the guys who have been killing each other the last two weeks of camp, and we finally see how we react to the other teams, it's been amazing."
In his stint, Jones completed 11 of 21 passes for 162 yards and the TD, and he also rushed four times for 34 yards. Sure, all of his work came against the Colts' second- and third-stringers, but it was a positive debut for the fourth-round pick out of Ohio State.
"Well I think it's a great thing, I absolutely think it is," coach Rex Ryan said of the command Jones showed in the huddle and on the field. "But we've seen it every day on the practice field. There wasn't anybody in that locker room that never thought he was going to do it, I can promise you that."
Jones is not ready to play a regular-season game. In fact, he's not even close. But that's fine with Ryan because with Tyrod Taylor locked in as the starter and four-year veteran EJ Manuel in the backup role, Jones is in an ideal position where he can learn without the burden of expectation.
"We have a great quarterback situation," said Ryan. "We have a proven starter, a proven backup, and this is a young man that keeps getting better and better. He's got more poise, and I get it because that is what we said about him when the young man was drafted. However, almost immediately, we saw a guy that has poise. One thing that you don't see is the work ethic that he has and he's a sharp young man, really smart. Is he maybe improving faster than we thought? Maybe so."
Jones was somewhat of a head-scratching pick for the Bills in the fourth round. He started only 11 games at Ohio State, and while he won all 11 -- including the national championship game in January 2015 -- he could not hold onto the starting job last year. He was viewed as a project who might not ever adapt to the NFL style of play, but clearly the Bills thought differently.
They see a player who is 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, with a cannon for an arm, and with that chunk of clay at their disposal, the Bills coaches think he can be molded into a solid and productive player.
"Cardale is an interesting young man," said Ryan. "And when he's over there yelling at G-Ro (offensive coordinator Greg Roman) about the play that he wanted in a crucial situation, I'm telling you, he's pretty special."
Jones actually fumbled the first snap he took in the third quarter, though he was able to recover. He produced two first downs on his first series before the Bills punted, and two more first downs (including a 25-yard pass to tight end Nick O'Leary) on his second possession, which ended with Dan Carpenter missing a 53-yard field goal. His next two tries ended with a punt and fourth-down incomplete pass, but then came his final possession.
He hit Boykin for 22 yards on a deep out, then found Walter Powell on a crossing route, and thanks to a missed tackle Powell turned it into a 40-yard gain to the Colts' 21. After three incompletions, Jones scrambled for 12 yards on fourth-and-10 and got out of bounds with eight seconds to go. He then hit Boykin for the touchdown, and threw incomplete on the two-pointer to win the game.
"A couple of things I was missing in practice I kind of hit (Saturday)," Jones said. "I don't want to say it made the game easy, but I kind of had tougher days at practice. Like I said before, that's just a testament to our coaches and how they prepare us."