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Edwards, offense make strides in Bills' opener

Edwards efficient, unspectacular in Week 1 win (Photo Source)

Progress.  For a Buffalo Bills offense that was dreadful in 2007, "progress" is a term that has been necessarily associated with the unit.  Without offensive progress, fans have feared since the off-season, Buffalo's chances at securing a playoff berth in 2008 aren't much better than they were in 2007.

When the Bills' offense began their season-opening win over Seattle with four consecutive punts and nary a first down, then, fans' skepticism may have strengthened.  Quarterback Trent Edwards looked rusty and gun-shy, the running game was having consistency difficulties, and there were some early pass protection issues in which Edwards was forced to make snap decisions.  It wasn't pretty.

Just as they must continue to do as the 2008 season moves forward, however, Buffalo's offense progressed against Seattle.  Mid-way through the second quarter, Edwards hit wideout Lee Evans on a 32-yard fade route to set up a 21-yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch, and Buffalo's offense didn't look back en route to an efficient (if unspectacular) day.  Tripled with a dominant defensive effort and a near-perfect special teams performance, Buffalo won handily.  But it's no secret that while effective, Buffalo's offense is clearly the team's weakest link.

Edwards growing comfortable
Buffalo's offense piled up 338 yards of offense on the day, most of it once Edwards settled into his comfort zone near the end of the first half.  The second-year quarterback, entering his first full season as the team's starter, completed 19 of 30 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown; he was sacked just once, didn't turn the ball over, and his smart decision-making led to a 95.8 QB rating.  He was solid and made a few excellent throws, including his 30-yard touchdown strike to tight end Robert Royal.

What might have been most impressive about Buffalo's offensive performance, however, was the way it responded to tricky situations.  After building a 14-0 lead, Seattle's Nate Burleson hauled in a touchdown reception to cut the lead in half.  Buffalo's offense responded well, promptly driving down the field and kicking a field goal to extend the lead to 10.  They then got the ball back at the end of the half, and Edwards calmly put his team in position to add to the lead by the half, which they did, extending their lead to 20-7 at the break.  Again they responded in the third quarter; Olindo Mare again cut the lead in half with a field goal, and again, Edwards drove his offense down the field for what would have been another field goal had punter Brian Moorman not stolen his thunder with a TD toss of his own.

The point is this: Edwards was handed the starting job because head coach Dick Jauron and his staff believed that he was a good decision-maker, could operate an offense, and handled particular situations well.  That's exactly what Edwards did yesterday, and it worked to the tune of 20 offensive points for the Bills.  Seeing him make progress within a single game was a great indication of his smarts and potential, but it's clear that there is still a long ways to go for Trent and his offense.

Where they can improve
Consistency is the biggest area lacking offensively at this point, and that's to be expected - offensive coordinator Turk Schonert, as well as Edwards and a couple of offensive linemen, were in brand new situations yesterday.  Schonert called a good game, but there were one or two questionable decisions, and I'm sure that Schonert isn't satisfied - and he shouldn't be.  This offense is still trying to figure things out, first and foremost what their true identity is.  It wasn't pretty at times, but this was as solid a start as could have reasonably been expected.

Buffalo's run blocking needs to become more consistent as well.  Marshawn Lynch had a solid 18-carry, 76-yard performance highlighted by a touchdown run, but many of those yards - as they did in 2007 - came on his stupendous effort.  Only a handful of times yesterday did Lynch and his running mate, Fred Jackson, have substantial room with which to work on running plays.  I'm not so sure that a return to the lineup by Pro Bowl LT Jason Peters will remedy the situation, either, because this was a "problem" last year, even when Peters was in the lineup.  The pass protection, on the other hand, was superb, and I'm confident that offensive line coach Sean Kugler - who has done a good job preparing his guys to play - can make the situation better as the season moves forward.

Perspective can be a glorious thing, and on a day as exciting as this - because let's face it, how long has it been since we, as Bills fans, could be this excited after a dominant effort by our team on opening day? - perhaps some perspective will be a good calming effect for us.  It's OK to be pleased; satisfied, on the other hand, is an entirely different animal.  To see Buffalo's offense mature and progress within a single game was encouraging.  But there were enough issues to remain skeptical about Buffalo's playoff chances, considering Tom Brady's shredded knee or not.  Perspective is good, but progress is better.  As long as progress consistently continues to show up when Buffalo's offense takes the field, however, there is every reason to be euphorically excited about this 2008 Buffalo Bills season.