Edwards making quick strides (buffalobills.com)
So this is what it looks like to have good, consistent quarterback play. How quickly we can forget as fans of the Buffalo Bills.
Second-year quarterback Trent Edwards made just his eleventh career start in yesterday's 20-16 Bills win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the 24-year-old signal caller looked like a seasoned vet - and his play reflected it. It's hard to overstate just how clutch Edwards' performance was on Sunday. This was the team's first road game of the season, and it came in a hostile environment with harsh (read: superbly hot) weather conditions against a tough, physical defense. The odds were stacked against the quarterback; he calmly defied them. His play has Bills fans everywhere - including yours truly, a fervent defender of J.P. Losman during the 2007 (my, crow is delicious) - excited about not only his potential, but now his production.
Edwards makes critical plays in W over Jags
It was Edwards' right arm that saved the day for Buffalo and vaulted them to their first 2-0 start since the 2003 season. Edwards completed 20 of 25 passes for 239 yards and a game-winning touchdown to rookie receiver James Hardy with four minutes left to play. He was efficient, he was smart with the ball, but perhaps most importantly, he was at his best when his team needed him to be - he orchestrated a 12-play opening touchdown drive to give the Bills a 7-0 lead early, and he won the game late in the fourth quarter. His quarterback rating on the day was an outstanding 119.8.
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Edwards has shown in his brief stint as the Bills' starting quarterback that he has what it takes to win games late. He did it last year in a come-from-behind victory against the Washington Redskins (whose defense at the time was orchestrated b Gregg Williams, whose Jaguars defense Edwards so easily carved up yesterday). He nearly did it with the season on the line in Cleveland in some of the worst weather conditions a quarterback could play in. He certainly did it yesterday.
Now Edwards, along with his team, is off to a fast start. The team is 2-0 (lifting Edwards' career record to 7-4 as a starter), and Edwards himself has amassed a 107.7 quarterback rating in two wins over 2007 playoff teams in Seattle and Jacksonville. He's completed 71 percent of his passes (39 completions in 55 attempts) for 454 yards and two scores. He's thrown no interceptions and turned the ball over only once. His 8.25 yards per pass attempt is an outstanding statistic indicative of how efficient he's become. He's been sacked just four times while proving that he's highly proficient at reading defenses and getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers.
Living up to his vote of confidence
Some fans and experts were critical of the Bills' decision to hand the reigns of the franchise over to Edwards after a solid yet highly unspectacular rookie season in which he was 5-4 as a starter, yet threw more interceptions (8) than touchdowns (7). Those fans who supported the decision - like the Bills - are being rewarded for their confidence in Edwards. He doesn't look like he's got less than a year of starting experience. He's smart with the football and can make big plays with his arm. In short, he's the perfect quarterback for a team led by Dick Jauron - and the team is showing it thus far.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, however, it's important to realize just how much growing up Edwards still has to do. There are still moments where he hangs onto the football for a touch too long, and that's been the case on nearly every sack he's taken this season. Perspective is great, so remember that he's only started eleven games. He's bound to see defensive looks he's never seen before in upcoming games, and he'll need to handle them as well as he's handled himself to date. His health is still a concern - we need to be knocking on wood every day that Edwards stays healthy, because he's been quite injury-prone at Stanford and missed some time last year with an injured wrist.
But it's OK to be excited. It's obvious that this quarterback has what it takes - namely, the smarts and moxie to handle difficult situations, and the arm to make plays - to play at a high level consistently. Buffalo made an unusual move when they gave Edwards the ultimate vote of confidence and named him their starting quarterback immediately following the 2007 season. But then again, Edwards is an unusual player - for the Bills, at least. He's a competent NFL quarterback, and he's got the potential to be much more than that.