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State of the Bills Roster: Quarterback

Edwards enters second full season as starter (photo source)

Now that the 2009 NFL Draft is in the books and off-season player acquisition will crawl at a snail's pace, Buffalo Rumblings has begun re-examining the Buffalo Bills' revamped roster.  We start off our 'State of the Roster' series this morning with a look at the top: quarterback.

Here's the good news... well, it's 'good' depending on your perspective.  If you grew tired of J.P. Losman's erroneous quarterback play and, more importantly, his ambivalent attitude in 2008, you're in luck - the former first-round pick is no longer with the team.  However, if you're averse to watching yet another Bills first-round pick prove himself to be a bust, well, then, Losman's departure is just salt in the wound for you.

Outside of bringing in a new backup quarterback, not much has changed at this position for the Bills.  Trent Edwards is still the starter, and the team is still screwed if he gets hurt - something he's done in each of his first two seasons in the league - or if he can't make significant progress in his second full season as Buffalo's franchise quarterback.  The Bills currently have four quarterbacks on the roster; let's get the 'State of the Roster' series started without further ado, shall we?

STARTER: Trent Edwards
Here's everything you need to know about Trent Edwards in three paragraphs.

Edwards has started 11 games thus far in his career against teams that, the following spring, selected in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft (i.e. pretty crappy to absolutely awful teams).  In those games, Edwards has put together a QB rating of 88.35, thrown for 2,145 yards and 12 touchdowns (with 8 interceptions), and the Bills are 9-2 in those contests.

Edwards has started 12 games thus far in his career against teams that, the following spring, did not select in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft (i.e. mediocre to fantastic teams).  In those games, Edwards has put together a QB rating of 71.49, thrown for 2,184 yards and 6 touchdowns (with 10 interceptions), and the Bills are 3-9 in those contests.

Edwards is a smart player.  He's a likable guy, a positive influence in the locker room, and he's motivated to improve as quickly as he possibly can.  He genuinely wants to be the quarterback this city has pined for since the days of Jim Kelly - and he's busting his butt to get there.  We love him for that.  But the stats are what they are - he has dominated lesser competition, and he's struggled mightily against better football teams.  He needs to perform better in critical situations against the league's better teams - particularly in games against division rivals - or this team isn't going anywhere.  We're pulling for you, kid.

Ryan Fitzpatrick
Buffalo signed its new backup quarterback, formerly of Cincinnati, on the first day of free agency this year.  Prone to turnovers and lacking elite physical tools, it's probably best for the Bills if Fitzpatrick doesn't see the light of day at any point during his Bills career (though he does possess a good mind, a good arm and pretty solid wheels).  The improvement he brings over Losman comes not in talent (clearly), but in the locker room - he's going to be a good influence on Edwards behind the scenes.  He's got the smarts to push Trent in the film room, and he's got the ability to bail the Bills out should Edwards get hurt - again - for a short stretch of time this season.  He's a serviceable backup, and that's more than we can say for last year's backup.

Gibran Hamdan
Another smart guy with a good work ethic.  Can't complain about having this guy on the roster, mostly because he barely exists in the minds of most Bills fans.  He's as solid a third quarterback as you'll find in the league... but let's not think about the way our stomachs will feel if he's ever pressed into action.

Matt Baker
Has a shot to stick on the practice squad if he impresses in training camp.  Was placed on IR last season, and that's probably the only reason he's still around.

Contract situations: Signed to a three-year deal, Fitzpatrick has the most job security at present time - and that's a bit terrifying.  Edwards has two years remaining on his rookie deal, so add 'new contract' to the gigantic list of things Edwards is playing for this year.  That factor probably pales in comparison to items such as 'job security', 'saving a franchise', 'ending a playoff drought', and 'ensuring a coach doesn't get canned'.

Both Hamdan and Baker could be entering their final seasons as Bills.

Bottom Line
Buffalo did a nice job of putting some significant talent around Edwards this off-season.  They're doing the best they can to give Trent every opportunity to succeed - and that's about all they can do.  It's fairly cliche to boil down team success to quarterback play, but it's cliche for a reason - it's true.  This team will go as far as Trent Edwards can carry them.  Forget T.O.; forget the revamped O-Line and the trio of tailbacks; forget the improved pass rush and more playmakers in the defensive secondary.  It's all on Edwards.

It's a sad reality, but unfortunately, Edwards has some significant odds to defy.  Being the blind loyalist I am, I'm fully confident that Trent has what it takes to make strides and lead this team back to the playoffs - I just think he's got it physically as well as upstairs.  But I'm not the type to beat around the bush, either - the season boils down to Edwards improving.  There really isn't an easier way to say it.

As for the rest of these guys - they stabilize the position, but let's hope they don't see the field, shall we?  It's Trent or bust in 2009, folks.  At the very least, it should be an interesting ride.