Fitzpatrick Makes Solid Case For Bills' Backup QB Job

LANDOVER MD - AUGUST 13: David Nelson #86 celebrates with Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills after scoring in the third quarter of the preseason game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on August 13 2010 in Landover Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Trent Edwards is having the best preseason of his career, and is a virtual lock to open the season as the starting quarterback of the Buffalo Bills. From there, Buffalo's quarterback situation is still difficult to read, as three players are fighting tooth and nail for two roster spots. The biggest question that remains unanswered is which player will emerge as Edwards' primary backup.

In the preseason opener against Washington, Ryan Fitzpatrick worked with the second team, while Brian Brohm didn't play at all. The roles were reversed last week against Indianapolis, with Fitzpatrick watching Brohm from the sidelines. Last night against Cincinnati, Fitzpatrick worked with the twos, while Brohm saw some meaningless mop-up duty at the end of the game, throwing one incomplete pass.

Assuming that Chan Gailey holds true to form, Brohm will likely get one last (long) look in this Thursday's preseason finale against Detroit. He's got some ground to make up, as the heady Fitzpatrick has quietly put up a very strong case to be Edwards' primary backup when the regular season begins. The only leg up Brohm has at this point is that he'll end the preseason with much more opportunity to prove himself.

We haven't seen anything out of Fitzpatrick that we haven't seen before this preseason. He's made some inaccurate throws, and he's made some tremendous throws. What stands out about his performance is his dependability and consistency. In two games, Fitzpatrick has completed 15 of 23 passes (65.2%, an excellent figure for a QB with accuracy issues) for 138 yards, with two scores to undrafted rookie receiver David Nelson. He's added two rushes for nine yards, but also taken one sack.

Meanwhile, in just one performance and a speck of janitorial duty, Brohm has nearly as many attempts as Fitzpatrick (22), completing 14 of them (63.6%) for 125 yards. He has no scores (a fact that extends to his entire career, preseason or regular season), but also no major mistakes aside from a sack taken and a delay of game penalty.

Fitzpatrick's 6.0 yards-per-attempt average is fairly pedestrian, but isn't any worse than Brohm's (5.68). Brohm hasn't been bad; he was efficient and made good decisions with the football against Indy. Fitzpatrick, however, has set himself apart because of his ability to extend plays with his legs; he avoided pressure on both of his touchdown passes, and had a couple of nice scrambles against Cincinnati. Fitzpatrick has obvious flaws, but he's able to make things happen on the football field - something Brohm has not yet shown the ability to do at this level. That's huge in any NFL head coach's evaluations, and even bigger with Chan Gailey.

Brohm still has the Detroit game to make his final play for the job, and a strong performance will undoubtedly tighten the race back up. Both players will likely get playing time, as Edwards and the starters aren't likely to see more than a series or two, but Brohm will likely rotate through before Fitzpatrick. If the third-year man out of Louisville can't make enough plays to unseat the sixth-year Harvard grad, his only remaining shot at cracking Buffalo's roster will be as the preferred developmental project (to rookie Levi Brown) in the eyes of Gailey and GM Buddy Nix.

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