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Edwards Getting Time, but Nall Still in the Hunt

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Has Edwards beaten out Nall? (Courtesy: BuffaloBills.com)

Heading into training camp, the Buffalo Bills organization - and its fans - knew that with a young Bills team hitting the gridiron, there were sure to be many battles for playing time and roster spots. Some of them (right cornerback) have seemingly been decided; others (middle linebacker, right guard) are not yet "officially" decided but have clear leaders. Who knew, as the regular season grows ever closer, that the most heated positional debates would be centered around backup quarterback - a position that (knock on wood) won't see much field action this season?

Yet here I am, about to rant about recent developments at the position. With J.P. Losman's starting status etched in stone*, the race for the backup spot lies between veteran Craig Nall - a contender for the starting job last year - and rookie third-round pick Trent Edwards.

Ask any Bills fan which of the three quarterbacks has been best this pre-season. Seriously, do it. My guess is that the vast majority of the time, you'll get Edwards' name in reply. But does he really have a better grip on the backup job than Nall?

Edwards Getting Reps Galore
One recent development has put the ""Edwards jumping Nall on the depth chart" talks into overdrive - Edwards has received plenty of playing time through three pre-season games (five full quarters, to be exact), while Nall has played just two. In fact, Edwards has received about the same amount of playing time as Losman. More importantly, he's been getting second-team reps along with Nall in a practice setting.

Here's my beef: Why, oh why, does that mean that Edwards has a leg up in the competition? It doesn't. The only thing it means is that Edwards is getting more reps. It means what it means. Why does there have to be hidden meaning behind everything with this organization? I'm not discounting the possibility that it could mean that - I've been a Bills fan too long to be stupid enough to discount anything with this organization - but seriously, there are other schools of thought to consider here.

For example - why can't the increased reps just be that the coaching staff wants to see as much as possible of him on tape before handing him a clipboard and a Gatorade for the next 17 weeks? It makes sense - the coaches have seen Nall play for a year; why not use this time to get a better feel for Edwards as well? If they were playing Nall extensively right now, what purpose would it be serving? Ending a QB debate that ultimately would be pointless? Stunting the growth of a rookie whom the coaching staff happens to be very fond of? It would be idiotic for the team to play Nall right now, for those exact reasons. But for some reason, pre-season playing time has translated to an ultimate depth chart.

If that's true, we're in trouble. Not only is Edwards not ready to be the #2, but we'd be stuck with Duke Preston as our starting center as well. Ouch.

Hopping on the Edwards Bandwagon
Chris Brown at the official Bills site has jumped on the Edwards bandwagon as well:

"A TELLING SIGN?: After Tuesday's practice head coach Dick Jauron said Craig Nall will play after J.P. Losman at quarterback, but would likely only get two series as well. So it sounds as if Trent Edwards will get the rest of the game to play as the offensive staff continues to try to get him as much exposure to the pro game as possible. Personally I think they've already decided on Edwards as their backup QB which is why the staff gives him tons of work. They maintain that the #2 QB job is still up for grabs, but I thought it was very telling Tuesday that Craig Nall was running scout team plays in practice. I just feel bad for the guy. Nall is a good locker room guy and a pro when it comes to quarterback competitions like this. I don't think there's any way that he thought this is how things would pan out for him when he signed with the Bills last offseason." (Emphasis added)

There it is again. Edwards is playing more than Nall, so he must be in line for the job - totally ignoring the fact that #5 is, in fact, third in line. I added emphasis to Brown's thoughts for a reason - I'd like to pick them apart.

Thought one - that Edwards is getting work because the coaching staff has already decided that Edwards is their #2 guy. That, once again, is faulty logic - I'm not saying it can't be true, but it doesn't have to be. My belief, as stated above, is that Edwards is getting looks because he won't be getting many more for the rest of the season. There's only so much a staff can ascertain from watching a guy practice - and they've already got one pre-season of Nall under their belts.

Thought two - that Nall running the scout team means he's third in the pecking order. Note that Nall did this on Tuesday - exactly a day after the Bills released scout team QB Kevin Eakin. Maybe Nall was running the scout team because he was the only QB left? Flip it - if the staff was repping Nall more at #2, then Edwards is running scout team and nobody's talking. Seriously - this could mean that Nall is third, but it doesn't come close to actually meaning it.

The Ultimate Outcome
I don't pretend to have any more inside knowledge into the Bills organization than any other average Bills fan like myself. It is very possible that Edwards will ultimately beat out Nall for the backup job. That doesn't mean, however, that it is a certainty, nor does it mean that anything we've seen thus far clarifies the picture. Nall is still working through second in games, and let's face it - Edwards is a rookie. In the end, whoever comes in second could very likely be determined by situation. If the Bills are 0-2 and need a win, then you have to go with the veteran. If the Bills are 3-10 (or 10-3?) down by a lot (or up big?), then Edwards will probably get the look.

I'm just begging for some logic here. The pre-season ultimately means nothing. Don't make the mistake of discounting Nall - because at this point, he's the better quarterback. Be excited about Nall, because he's looked good in his two quarters of pre-season action. Be excited about Edwards, who has made some exciting plays as a rookie. Just don't swallow up everything you're hearing about this battle - because none of these developments mean anything.

Rant over. Bring on the Lions, final cuts and the regular season.

* at least for this season