As I exited Ralph Wilson Stadium Saturday night after the Buffalo Bills' 35-20 preseason victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, I turned to my father and said the following: "It's hard to believe that the same Trent Edwards we saw tonight was so unbelievably awful last preseason."
Edwards was a complete disaster in 2009, yet after surviving a regime change and re-emerging as the top QB on the depth chart, he has quietly put together a very steady preseason, and arguably the best of his professional career. Through parts of three games, Edwards has completed 24 of 37 passes for 304 yards, with two touchdowns, one interception and a quarterback rating of 97.1. He has led the Bills' first-team offense to 38 points in that time frame; if you recall, Buffalo's first unit didn't score a single touchdown in 2009.
It's hard to believe that barely two weeks ago, we were arguing over whether or not Edwards deserved to be benched. In the time since, Edwards has put together some very solid performances, and been consistent enough spark a little optimism. Don't worry - it is very, very cautious, against-our-better-judgment optimism. But it's optimism nonetheless.
For historical reference, here's how Edwards has performed in his first four professional preseasons.
The statistic most indicative of Edwards' efficiency is in yards per passing attempt, where his 8.22 figure dwarfs any he's yet put up. Any passing offense that is churning out eight yards for every throw is doing a lot of things right, and Edwards has spearheaded that effort by extending some plays, making tons of excellent decisions, and executing Chan Gailey's game plans very well. That's all he'll be asked to do, and he's certainly capable of doing it. He's proving that capability this preseason.
In 2007, Edwards was a rookie playing against second- and third-team defenses, so his nice stat line should be taken with a grain of salt. So, too, should his 2008 stat line, as Edwards appeared in just two games that preseason before succumbing to injury and missing the final two games. Hence his very low total of 16 attempted passes. As previously mentioned, 2009 was an unmitigated disaster, and as bad as he was last year, he's been equally efficient this year. I'd argue that his health, his attitude, his decision-making and his execution have made this his best preseason to date.
What's more, Edwards - overshadowed by the rest of the AFC East's young quarterbacks, like his team (and with very good reason) - has been out-playing everyone in the division not named Tom Brady. What follows is a faulty comparison, as the games still don't count, but it's certainly not meaningless; Edwards has been efficient more consistently than have Chad Henne and Mark Sanchez.
I know, I know. The games don't count. Defenses, and blitz packages in particular, are vanilla. The odds are still long against Edwards. I realize all of that; hence this line above the fold:
Don't worry - it is very, very cautious, against-our-better-judgment optimism.
Just don't tell me what Edwards has done this preseason is meaningless, because it isn't. We learned that lesson the hard way in 2009, when his shoddy play eventually carried over to the regular season. Preseason play matters. Thus far, Edwards is having a "career preseason," if you will. Let's hope that carryover effect continues into the regular season once again; this time, I doubt we'd mind so much.