When he was fired on September 4, former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Turk Schonert fired a parting shot at head coach Dick Jauron, claiming that the Bills' much-maligned leader wanted a "Pop Warner offense." Jauron handed the reigns of his offense to quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt, himself very inexperienced as an assistant coach, let alone as a play-caller of any sort.
The Bills have two games in the bag - and if this is the "Pop Warner offense" that Schonert described and apparently was loathe to employ, there's little wonder as to why Schonert was ousted in the first place.
The offense has not been perfect. The unit, led by quarterback Trent Edwards, has produced 43 points on its own through two games - four touchdowns (all through the air) and five field goals. It's solid production from a unit that most were down on after a rough pre-season; let's not forget that the unit is still green in key areas as well (quarterback, offensive line). The offense has hardly been remarkable, but it has been ridiculously efficient. He's got just 120 minutes of NFL play-calling experience under his belt, but Van Pelt has orchestrated one of the NFL's most balanced offenses through two weeks.
Run vs. Pass balance
These are the easy numbers to figure out, but as we'll explain shortly, they only tell part of the story. Edwards has thrown 56 passes in two games, while he and other Bills runners have carried the ball 54 times. That 56-54 pass-run ratio is only the tip of this well-balanced iceberg.
Most importantly, obviously, the Bills are getting production whether they're throwing or running. Edwards is completing 64 percent of his throws at 7.9 yards gained per attempt. He's already upped his career passing touchdown total from 18 to 22 in career starts No. 24 and 25. Meanwhile, the Bills are averaging a whopping 5.7 yards per carry on their 54 rushes. When an offense is gaining 8 yards every time it drops back to pass and 6 yards on every rush, things are going quite well, to say the least - even when factoring in two turnovers (one interception, one lost fumble).
Passing game balance
Put the 54 rushes out of your mind for just a moment. We're going to concentrate on the 56 throws for this little chunk of the post.
On those 56 attempts, the Bills' two elite receiving options - Terrell Owens and Lee Evans - have been targeted 19 times. Literally once every three times Edwards drops back, his throw is going in the direction of one of these two electric players. Results to this point have been mixed: on throws to either Owens or Evans, Edwards has completed 9 of 19 passes for 155 yards, 2 TD and 1 INT for a quarterback rating of 88.7.
It's pretty easy to wish that the ratio of passes to Owens and Evans would be a touch higher than 1-3, but considering how much attention that New England and Tampa Bay have paid to these guys - and why wouldn't they? - that ratio can hardly be considered low. That's even more apparent considering how efficient Edwards and the Bills' passing attack has been when targeting the rest of the team's receiving options. On throws to all other players (with Fred Jackson, Derek Schouman, Josh Reed and Shawn Nelson being the most productive players), Edwards has completed 27 of 37 passes for 283 yards with 2 TD, 0 INT and a quarterback rating of 112.7. That's still 7.6 yards per attempt, folks.
Eventually, it would be nice to see the Bills find more efficient ways of getting Evans and Owens involved. For now, the passing game is clicking - and they're doing so despite double coverages and some drops. That didn't come close to happening in 2008.
Running game balance
I mentioned earlier this morning that Fred Jackson has been this team's MVP, and while he's been the clear focal point of Buffalo's rushing attack, the Bills have been getting solid production in scrambles from Edwards, spot duty from Xavier Omon, and on end arounds (Owens, Roscoe Parrish). The results speak for themselves - 5.7 yards per carry is excellent.
The balance in the running game is apparent as well. Of the Bills' 54 rushes to date, 24 of them - yes, 44 percent of all runs - have been to the ends or off of the tackles. That stat is unheard of in Buffalo; coordinators such as Fairchild and Schonert had little to no imagination in the running game. On those 24 carries, the Bills have gained 115 yards (4.8 yards per attempt).
Their real dominance, however, has been running up the middle. Helped out by ridiculously gaudy stats against Tampa Bay, the Bills have carried the ball 30 times between the guards for 193 yards - yes, that's 6.4 yards per rush. The Bills have yet to score on the ground, but they're efficient rushing at the edges of the defense, and they're dominant doing so between the tackles thus far. That doesn't happen if the Bills aren't remarkably balanced not only as an offensive whole, but in where they're running the ball, as well.
Oh - and more balance is coming, folks. Remember Marshawn Lynch? You may have forgotten because of Mr. Jackson, but Mr. Lynch is a pretty good player himself.
Results speak for themselves
As mentioned, Buffalo's offense - not the team, but solely the offense - is averaging 22 points per game to this point. That's a solid figure, and as always, there's room for improvement - the Bills have left big plays on the field in the form of penalties, drops and plain misses in each of their first two games.
The balance is working wonders not only in terms of production, but in terms of confidence. This is a confident unit. Edwards is confident, the line is confident, and that confidence is seeping through the team as a whole. Want evidence? Take a look at one of Owens' recent tweets:
Man ws the Ralph rockin 2day!! Cn't wait til next!! Gonna b a good 1! Lovin trent more & more!! Watchin nfl primetime!
When Terrell Owens is becoming less skeptical by the day, things are going well. Chalk it up to impeccable balance. If the Bills can maintain any semblance of this balance, they're going to be difficult for anyone to beat this season.