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Measuring Trent Edwards against QB Year Two Trends

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How good can Edwards be in Year 2? (Photo Source)

It's the biggest question surrounding the Buffalo Bills, a team hoping to end its eight-year playoff drought - can second-year QB Trent Edwards play well enough to guide his team toward a chance at a post-season berth?

Unfortunately, this type of question can't be easily answered until, well, it's answered.  But by measuring the statistical trends of several modern quarterbacks as they made the leap from their first to their second year as a starting quarterback, some general rules seem to appear - and when applied to Edwards, bring forth some interesting predictions for his 2008 statistics.  Here's how we came up with our predictions for Edwards' numbers this coming season:

The Formula
Thirteen quarterbacks, both current and "retired", were chosen for this exercise.  Six are considered "elite" at their position, while the other seven have traits that compare favorably to what we've seen of Edwards thus far.  Those thirteen quarterbacks are...

The Elites: Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Donovan McNabb
The Comparisons: Jake Delhomme, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Marc Bulger, Philip Rivers, Matt Hasselbeck

As a side note, if Edwards performs as well as any of these thirteen quarterbacks have in the past, Buffalo has done pretty well for themselves.  Especially considering the Comparison group, it seems plausible that Edwards can reach that plateau.

All thirteen quarterbacks listed above were measured, from their first season to their second season as a starter, for fluctuations in the following statistical categories: completion percentage, passing yards, touchdowns and interceptions (you know, the basics).  Those fluctuations were averaged collectively between the thirteen quarterbacks, and then between their specific categories (elites versus comparisons).  The numbers were hardly shocking.

From year one to year two, here are the average fluctuations between the three groups:

Entire Group: +1% completion percentage, +240 yards, +4 TD, -1 INT
Elite Group: +1% completion percentage, +600 yards, +8 TD, E INT
Comparison Group: +1% completion percentage, -65 yards, +1 TD, -1 INT

These raw numbers were then adjusted within the elite and comparison groups to account for special circumstances.  For instance, Tony Romo played in more games his second season, so his statistical fluctuations were quite high; in the comparison group, both Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger missed four or more games in their second season, tweaking the stats.  Adjusted, here are the numbers for the elite and comparison groups considering injuries:

Elite Group: +1% completion percentage, +450 yards, +6 TD, -1 INT
Comparison Group: +1% completion percentage, +150 yards, +2 TD, -1 INT

Applying the Formula to Edwards
In order to be able to fully apply these numbers to Edwards' first season, we first had to extrapolate Edwards' rookie season statistics had he played a full season.  Edwards was the primary quarterback for Buffalo in 37 out of 64 total quarters played last year; had he played a full healthy season, his numbers would have been as such:

Edwards Extrapolated: 56% completion percentage, 2860 yards, 12 TD, 14 INT

With those hypothetical full-season numbers in mind, we then applied the three averaged trends from the formula above to chart Edwards' potential growth.  The entire group average, as well as the elite and comparison group averages, have been applied below to project his 2008 stats:

Edwards Averaged: 57% completion percentage, 3100 yds, 16 TD, 13 INT
Edwards Elite: 57% completion percentage, 3310 yards, 18 TD, 13 INT
Edwards Compare: 57% completion percentage, 3010 yards, 14 TD, 13 INT

This was an interesting exercise, even though I'm sure there are much smarter fans out there who can point out 1,000 flaws with the formula.  But it brings up some interesting debates - is the trend believable/applicable?  Can Edwards make an "elite" leap from his first to his second year, even if he himself never ends up an elite QB?  What kind of numbers will he need to produce to turn Buffalo into a serious, legitimate playoff contender?  Should we be worried about the stat line produced from the applied compare formula?

All items I hope to see discussed in the comments section.