First thing's first: you're welcome. Or rather, I apologize. Probably the latter. I did, in fact, re-watch enough of the Buffalo Bills' 6-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns to both get enough for a Film Session discussion and make me viciously nauseous. I'll let y'all take bets on how long it took me to get there. But either way, either you're welcome for braving the film, or apologies for bringing the game back up. I, myself, am in the latter group; I apologized profusely and repeatedly to myself last night for making me do that.
After the jump: your Week 5 film session. Topics of discussion: Trent Edwards, his offensive line, Marshawn Lynch, the safety position, Keith Ellison and Brian Moorman.
On Trent Edwards. Boy... the Trent Edwards that's capable of winning games has completely disappeared. Edwards has been milk carton bad over the past three weeks. In those three games, Buffalo's offense has scored 13 points. Holy crap.
Before I get into his mechanics, I want to talk about his decision-making. If you're at the game or watching in the heat of the moment, fans in the stands were booing every time he threw short - which, frankly, is ridiculous in and of itself, but still, you come away with the feeling that Trent checks down far too often. I didn't get that sense when I watched the film. True, there were occasions - too many occasions - that Edwards hesitated to throw towards Terrell Owens or Lee Evans when either was in single coverage. His decision-making clearly wasn't perfect. But his decisions actually weren't bad in this game. In general, he was smart with the football. Fans want Edwards to throw deep or intermediate on every play, but that's completely unrealistic. Trent took his shots. It'd be nice if he took more shots, but shots were taken.
I'm far less worried about Edwards' decision-making than I am with his mechanics. Chalk it up to his terrible offensive line play if you wish - I'm putting a large chunk of blame on them - but Edwards' mechanics have deteriorated significantly over the past few weeks. His footwork is getting happier by the snap, which should have the contrary effect of making Bills fans - and receivers - sad. He lacks accuracy for a variety of reasons, but mostly because he's either throwing on the move, backwards, or not stepping into his throws completely because of the rush. On his interception - a busted play where Trent was rolling to his left and spotted Owens running a fly route down the field - Trent had an opportunity to make a big play, but he threw moving to the left and off of one foot. Ball was short, Cleveland picked it. Trent had time to set his feet and throw a strike there - yeah, he'd have taken a hit - but he shied away and threw up a lollipop.
Set aside the "throw it deep or else!" stuff for now, because Trent's got much, much bigger problems.
On the offensive line. Ron's full line analysis is coming later this afternoon, but I feel compelled to say something here about the line that might not be covered there. Buffalo's offense has been completely devoid of rhythm the past three weeks. In this particular game, the line was the sole reason why. Of the nine false start penalties (one of which was on Lee Evans, by the way), at least seven - probably eight - of them came on downs that I would term "crippling" to the Bills. Buffalo was moving the ball at times on Sunday. The line's penalties, and the subsequent inability of Edwards and his receivers to make up for the slew of mistakes, kept Buffalo from scoring. Yes, they blocked well at times, but my goodness, these young guys need to learn how to count.
On Marshawn Lynch. He's back. Or, at least the Browns' awful run defense made Lynch look like he's back. He had 125 total yards on 23 touches, he blocked well (while I saw Fred Jackson whiff on at least two blitz pickups), and he made a beautiful play on a wheel route down the middle for the longest gain on the day, a 35-yard pass reception. No, it didn't matter, and yes, playing Cleveland - one of the worst defenses in the league (not that Buffalo could exploit it) - certainly helped. But for this game, he was clearly the better back between he and Jackson - and that's why he starts.
Jackson, who had a phenomenal start to the season, looked bad. He picked up 47 yards on 15 touches, but couldn't find holes in the run game the way Lynch did. As I mentioned, he had a couple of poor efforts in blitz pickup - an area where he's usually top-notch. This was just a bad game for a guy who had been Buffalo's most consistent performer to date.
One last note - Lynch came out of this game really early. Again. He's become known for getting super hyped before a game, getting worked up after one or two carries, and having to leave the field to either throw up or finish hyperventilating. He has not yet outgrown that. I have nothing against a guy being amped for an NFL football game - quite the opposite, actually - but as good as Jackson is, flip-flopping runners that early gets the offense out of rhythm, too. Maybe Jackson should start games and let Lynch take more and more carries as the game wears on.
On the safety position. Folks, I realize that most of you hated the pick when it was made, but Jairus Byrd was a great selection by this team. Or, rather, the player selected could be great. Byrd was all over the field Sunday, finishing with seven tackles and a really nice, plucked-before-hitting-the-ground interception on a terrible Derek Anderson overthrow. He made some pretty big hits defending the run, too. A week prior in Miami, Byrd very nearly had a beautiful interception on a Chad Henne pass in the end zone. Folks, his instincts and ball skills weren't oversold in April. This guy can play.
I don't think it's a coincidence, either, that Buffalo has really struggled to defend the run - including against Cleveland - ever since the second half against New Orleans, which just happens to be roughly the time that Donte Whitner was injured. (It's roughly the time Bryan Scott was injured as well, for the record.) I've said it before, and I'll say it again - Whitner was playing at a near-Pro Bowl level before his injury, particularly defending the run. He was all over the football field.
If they can stay healthy - and if both can survive a likely off-season regime change - Buffalo has a safety tandem in Whitner and Byrd that are extremely versatile, fast, athletic, and excel in different areas (Whitner defending the run, Byrd the pass). These guys are both young and extremely talented, and they complement each other well. This, at least, is something to look forward to - the Bills have a pair of potentially elite safeties.
On Keith Ellison. I understand that a lot of people think he stinks, mostly because he doesn't weigh 250 pounds or run a 4.4 40-yard dash. Who cares? Yes, he's overmatched physically on occasion, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a more dependable player on the team. Plus, the guy produces, and he knows Perry Fewell's system so thoroughly that he shifted to middle linebacker without making a single error, as far as I could tell. Yes, Buffalo's run defense was again bad, but Ellison is hardly to blame. His value is really thrown into light considering that the Bills will be playing without Paul Posluszny and Kawika Mitchell for the foreseeable future. And yes - I realize that Ellison playing Mike next week against Thomas Jones and Leon Washington is hardly ideal. But I'm comfortable with Ellison inside - you'll see no errors on his part.
On Brian Moorman. My Dad and I, sitting in the stands, watched Moorman punt balls into the stiff wind during pre-game warmups. He was standing feet from Dave Zastudil while doing so. Zastudil is an excellent punter, as he proved by pinning Buffalo deep three times, but so is Moorman. While Zastudil boomed perfect spirals with great spin into the wind during warm-ups, Moorman shanked left, shanked right, shanked high and shanked short. He looked pitiful.
And then he went out and averaged 52 yards on 7 punts.
The guy is good. Yes, I'm talking up our punter. We have very little to cling to right now, so shut it. Moorman's coverage units are nowhere near the quality they've been in the three years prior, but Moorman is still getting the job done. Some of Bobby April's other specialists should take note, because the rest of them flat-out stink, most particularly Roscoe Parrish.