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Time is Now for Bills Rookie QB Edwards, Fairchild

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Edwards starts for injured Losman (Courtesy: BuffaloBills.com)

Let us make this clear right from the get-go: for all their early-season struggles, the Buffalo Bills undeniably and irrevocably remain J.P. Losman's football team. Despite his sprained knee that will likely keep him out until after the Week Six bye, there is very little chance that he'll keep his seat on the bench once he's healthy and ready to return. This remains Losman's make-or-break year, regardless of how poorly he's played in the two full games he's gotten. That needed to be clarified first.

With that out of the way, let us now state the obvious: Losman's injury has created a huge opportunity for rookie QB Trent Edwards, he of the fantastic pre-season. In his first regular season NFL action, Edwards led a touchdown drive while going 4/5 passing, but then faded as the Patriots dropped their coverage, stuffed the run and dared Steve Fairchild to actually call a slant route. Edwards created enough confidence with the coaching staff for the team to keep two quarterbacks heading into the regular season. That confidence will need to show through over the next two weeks, as the Bills look to secure their first win of the season at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

What Can Edwards Accomplish?
First, the good - Edwards has the ability, much like Losman, to move this offense. For a rookie getting his feet wet in Foxboro, Edwards was marvelously calm in the pocket and made a few nice throws. He doesn't have the escapability of Losman, but he's fluid enough to move in the pocket, and he throws pretty well on the run (not that Fairchild calls for any roll-outs). We're well aware that the kid is talented - but it's also plain that the kid isn't ready to play. Yet it's tough to shake the feeling that if Edwards performs well, he'll be a major part of the team's long-term plans - even if Losman returns and excels.

There's no doubt that with Edwards in the lineup, it will drastically change how the Bills go about things offensively - even if we didn't see that in New England. Physically, Edwards is up to the challenge, but NFL quarterbacks are not effective until, as the cliche says, the game slows down for them. 30 blitzes a game from the Jets and Cowboys does not define "slow" by any means. It will be up to the coaching staff to put Edwards in the position to succeed, which brings me to my next point...

Pressure Mounts on Fairchild
Other than physical tools, the one thing going for Edwards is that he's got very little pressure on him. Low expectations help out in that regard; the pressure that Edwards is currently avoiding is aiming squarely for the shoulders of Fairchild, the offensive coordinator whose offense is, well, offensive. The Bills have scored 17 offensive points in 3 games and 24 overall - easily the lowest total in the league. With the Jets and the explosive Cowboys coming into town, this Bills offense needs to put up points. That's not on Edwards - it's on Fairchild.

Here's what you have, Steve - a sound ground game, an O-line that is probably ahead of schedule gelling-wise and a plethora of wideouts who excel in space. "In space", Mr. Fairchild, doesn't mean "run a seven route then go but hook it after you slant post and drag". Simplify the routes, throw in the occasional double move, use Marshawn Lynch more as a receiver (5 catches in 3 games is far too few) and get the ball out of Edwards' hands ASAP. That's how you slow the game down for Edwards, and that's how you beat the blitz. We'll see if Coach can deliver.

What to Expect
Runs. Lots of runs. Lynch has amassed 62 touches in 3 weeks (57 carries, 5 receptions); expect that total to increase to about 22-25 carries and 3-5 catches. The reasoning is simple - Lynch is currently the best player on this football team, and he needs the ball in his hands as much as possible. At some point, the coaches will recognize that.

But more importantly, expect the coaching staff to use Edwards, rather than game plan around his rookie status. This kid can make plays, as we saw in one glorious drive at New England, and with the defense in shambles, the offense can't hold back. We're not looking for a wide-open, four-wide attack, but don't expect 35 runs and 15 passes either. Points are scored through the air - and if Edwards can put up points, we may be saying his name a lot next spring. For now, rally behind the rookie - it will be streaky, but it could also be fun.