After three pre-season games, the Buffalo Bills and their new-look offense have scored three points in nine possessions. The first unit's lack of success, particularly their three-turnover, zero-point performance last weekend in Green Bay, has led to a hailstorm of negative publicity over the past several days.
Dick Jauron called out Trent Edwards. Trent Edwards called out the coaching staff. Edwards was given several nicknames by local media, with the most popular being "Trentative Checkwards," a WGR 550 concoction playing off of his supposed tentative nature and penchant to throw short, check-down passes. The offensive line remains a worry. People are distraught about the fact that Terrell Owens has still only played one series. Marshawn Lynch is still very much suspended, and Fred Jackson's injury scare earlier this week did little to sooth the nerves.
It's been an ugly week to be an offensive player in Buffalo. The sad reality of the situation, however, is that one solitary touchdown this weekend in Pittsburgh would quell the doubters, at least for a day or two. Here's the kicker - any number of touchdowns in the Steel City would mean exactly the same amount as their current point-every-three-drives pace. Not a thing.
Graham takes Bills to task
ESPN's Tim Graham penned an article on Thursday outlining all the gory details of the Bills' offensive misfortunes through three pre-season games. In a nutshell: the Bills' starting offense has run 58 plays for 208 yards, and in that time frame they've turned the ball over as many times as they have put a point on the board (three). Buffalo's average drive takes them a whopping 23 yards.
Many of the concerns that Graham outlines are valid - but for those paying attention, they're also not any different than before the pre-season started. We've been worried about the line, about Edwards, and about the team's recent inability to score points throughout the entire off-season - even after Owens was signed. I fail to understand how poor pre-season performances have deepened those concerns.
It works both ways. Last pre-season, the Bills played the Steelers in Toronto - and the first-team offense ripped Pittsburgh's soon-to-be champion defense to shreds. This was a Bills offense that did not, by the way, feature Owens - oh, and Jason Peters was in the midst of a holdout as well. Yet Edwards completed 9 of 11 passes for 104 yards, with two touchdowns to Robert Royal, of all people. He convered a 3rd-and-12 with a 22-yard scramble. What did that exciting performance mean for the offense's prospects in 2008? Diddly squat. Do you think Steelers fans lost any sleep over their performance, or marveled at that kid wonder quarterback who shredded their defense? I sincerely doubt it.
Nothing has changed, folks
I mentioned this once, but it's the point of this post, so I'll hammer it home: these concerns are valid. What most fans are forgetting is that they have been valid for a long number of months. They have not changed in urgency after uninspiring pre-season performances, and perhaps most importantly, the concerns will not be lessened if the Bills drop 30 points on the Steelers in the first half tomorrow.
Forget about ease of mind - you won't find it in NFL pre-season football. No matter how good or bad a team looks, the ultimate truth is that the game doesn't count. We still treat the Patriots like an infallible machine of football perfection and purity, but has anyone noticed that they've looked pretty terrible themselves through two pre-season games? Nobody's worried about them, because "they'll turn it up a notch when the games count." Guess what? So will the Bills.
Do I want to see the Bills march Pittsburgh's first-team defense backwards up and down the field tomorrow night? Certainly. Pre-season football is boring, and it's fun to see the Bills dominate in any setting. But ultimately, the performance is meaningless, and no matter how much greatness or how much awful play is exhibited, not a thing will change in my mind heading into the final pre-season game and the regular season. The offense is still a worry - and pre-season performances either way won't change that.