It probably wasn't the greatest idea, but I did it anyways: as I've done in the past, I flipped the proverbial bird at my mountainous pile of end-of-semester schoolwork and instead chose to intently watch the re-air of the Bills/Redskins game on NFL Network. This just gives public proof of something I've known for a while: college has my mind, but Buffalo Rumblings has my soul.
So I watched the Bills game. Again. This time, I took notes. Here's what I noticed about the offense:
On Trent Edwards: I was impressed with Trent Edwards. There were some flaws to his game, but that's expected for a rookie: his timing was off a bit with Lee Evans, which led to a couple of drops and a couple of misfires. That's something that should improve with time. He also isn't seeing the entire field at times, as he missed a wide-open Roscoe Parrish on a third-down conversion that could have resulted in a touchdown. That, also, is something that should improve as he gains experience. His release point also bothers me a little - he's got a quick release, but it's low, and it led to a couple of tipped passes early in the game. Look for Buffalo to work on getting that release point higher before next season.
What I love about Edwards, however, is his pocket presence. When a QB can avoid getting sacked against a blitz-happy scheme, you know you're going to have some success on offense. Trent is great at keeping his head down the field, and doesn't get rattled in the face of defenders. He's also got great zip on underneath throws - we knew he was accurate, but he fires the ball in there hard as well. The pass to Fred Jackson that resulted in a 54-yard gain was a perfect throw - as was the 30-yarder to Josh Reed that set up the game-winning field goal. He's a playmaker, and as soon as he gets more experience, I think you'll see him become more confident in taking shots down the field.
On Blocking: I also came away impressed by the offensive line. Admittedly, I wasn't able to see every Bills drive the second time, but I only noticed two big hits on Edwards - and he was able to deliver the ball beforehand both times. Jason Peters got beat badly by Andre Carter on one play, but more than held his own the rest of the game. Melvin Fowler was also superb - he routinely manhandled the interior linemen of Washington, and had some truly excellent pull blocks on outside runs by Jackson.
Speaking of the running back, Fred Jackson's blitz pickup was also confirmed: he didn't miss a block, and I counted three instances where Jackson absolutely laid out a Redskins blitzer. He was excellent. (And yes, he looked good running on tape as well. He doesn't always follow his blockers well, but he has a great stop-slap move - for lack of a more sophisticated term; you'd have to see it to know what I'm referring to - that lets him gain the corner.)
On Play-Calling: I bash the play-calling a lot, and I'm going to do it to an extent here as well. It just bugs me when Trent Edwards is rolled out 4 times in a game after the benching of J.P. Losman. That's cruel irony, and strange play-calling. I actually really like what Fairchild does in the running game - he moves our backs around well and spreads out the real estate. But his passing play-calling is ludicrous, and very predictable. I can't complain about the lack of the deep pass, though - Buffalo took four shots downfield, hitting on two of them (the bobble catch by Evans and Reed's big play) and nearly getting a third (Evans' drop in the end zone). They're taking their shots.
You know what play-call I really, really dislike? The bubble screen. Fairchild insists on running it, and it rarely gains more than 4-5 yards (more on that in a moment). Two times, it was absolutely shut down by Washington. Every time it's run, Buffalo releases the tackle and guard to block, and the pass rush is too quick without offensive linemen to let it develop. The end result is more often than not the QB is fading to avoid the sack, throws off of his back foot, and the throw is too low to allow the wideout any momentum. It's a poor design, and it needs to be tempered out of the playbook ASAP.
On YAC Potential: To me, Buffalo's biggest problem offensively is - surprisingly - not play-calling. It's not QB swapping, and it's not injuries. It's the fact that once Buffalo completes a pass, they can't do anything with it. There is very little Yard After Catch (YAC) potential with our skill position players - especially at tight end. Sure, Josh Reed is good for about 5 extra yards every time he makes a catch, and Roscoe Parrish (who has an absolutely fabulous set of hands) is great in the open field - but he's not involved enough to make an impact. Lee Evans has potential here, but defenses are keying on him too heavily to let him make many plays after making the catch. It's a stop and drop offense, and it makes it very difficult to consistently move the chains.
This YAC problem is prominently evident at tight end. Robert Royal and Michael Gaines are nice players - Royal is a great blocker and a sneaky receiver who Fairchild utilizes well, and Gaines is a nice safety valve - but playmakers they are not. Buffalo's receivers are too small to break tackles, and our tight ends are too rumble-stumble to out-swift even the slowest of linebackers. I'm very much starting to believe that a play-making, athletic, receiving tight end is the ideal "quick fix" for this offense - tight ends like that can pick up chunk yardage, be used in a variety of different alignments, and would really help Edwards' development.