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Pre-season struggles continue for Bills' Edwards

Who are you, not-so-great quarterback, and what have you done with the Trent Edwards of Weeks 1-7, 2008? Would you mind dropping him off, like, ASAP?

The Buffalo Bills' first team offense has scored three points through four pre-season games.  They have struggled to run the ball, throw the ball, protect the ball, and win individual matchups.  No matter your views on the importance of pre-season football, or how deeply you let meaningless football games dampen your spirits, Buffalo's offense has been beyond ugly, particularly over the past two weeks.

Edwards, entering his second full season as the starting quarterback, has been at the center of the downfall.  "Regression" is a dirty word when talking about NFL players.  You'll hear it more and more if Edwards continues to play the way he has this pre-season.

Stats don't do it justice, but we'll start there
Edwards, on 15 legitimate drives through four games, has completed 26 of 38 passes for 189 yards, with no touchdowns, three interceptions, and a passer rating of 46.9.  He has been sacked five times, losing a fumble on one of those sacks.  He has looked uncomfortable in the pocket, indecisive with the ball in his hands, and streaky with his accuracy.

Yeah.  It's pretty much been a perfect storm of overall suckitude - and an argument can be made that he has looked worse every time a new game starts.

For me - not necessarily an eternal optimist, but moreso a guy who doesn't freak out over every tiny detail, and struggles to understand those who do - by far the most disconcerting stat has not been mentioned yet.  Edwards is completing 68 percent of his throws.  Not bad, right? I suppose not.  But exactly 5 of his 26 completions have gained more than ten yards.  I'll say that again - five of Edwards' passing plays have gained more than ten yards.  They are listed below.

HoF Game (TEN): Edwards completes to Terrell Owens, 16 yards, first down
HoF Game (TEN): Edwards completes to Terrell Owens, 11 yards, first down
Week 2 (CHI): Edwards completes to Lee Evans, 36 yards, first down
Week 3 (at GB): Edwards completes to Fred Jackson, 13 yards, first down
Week 4 (at PIT): Edwards completes to Dominic Rhodes, 16 yards, first down

Forty percent of those "big" (for lack of a better term this early in the morning) passing plays came on the one drive that Mr. Owens has thus far participated in.  That should, at a minimum, tell you something about his presence.  The fact that 81 percent of Edwards' completions have gained less than ten yards (or, in some cases, resulted in yardage lost), should tell you something about how putrid the quarterback play has been, as well.

Is this what we should expect?
I've gone on record as stating that Owens' presence - or lack thereof - is being severely understated throughout the offensive fiasco we've witnessed over the last month.  There is little doubt in my mind that having two receivers that defenses have to give a second thought to will assist the passing game in ways previously unimagined.  That's made clearer by the stat above.  So, at least to my mind, this is not what we should expect from the offense, and from a production standpoint with Edwards, once Owens comes back to the lineup.  A healthy Owens doesn't "fix" the offense, but he certainly makes life easier for everyone else.

I'm having a harder time getting to the point where I can say that we can expect different decision-making and poise from Edwards.  I'm not overly worried about the turnovers - those have not been a huge problem in the regular season.  I'm concerned about Edwards' mindset with the ball in his hands.  Last night in Pittsburgh, he looked like a little kid on the first day of kindergarten in the pocket.  Any feel for avoiding contact and creating throwing lanes he once had seems to have been rattled out of him.  Forget about everything else, and worry most about this singular fact: right now, Edwards is no longer a poised quarterback.

That's made all the more apparent when a guy like Ben Roethlisberger is across the field.  Roethlisberger is second to none when it comes to avoiding the pass rush and extending plays.  On one occasion on Saturday evening alone, Roethlisberger ducked a ferocious pass rush from DE Chris Ellis, scrambled to the left out of the pocket, and floated a pass to TE Heath Miller over coverage for a big gain.  That is a play that Roethlisberger makes routinely, and it's also a play that Edwards never makes.  He is not poised enough to pull something like that off.  He has not shown the ability to be a playmaker; he has not shown that he can trick his way out of a bad play by making something happen on his own.

The ultimate bottom line
I've spent the entire off-season linking Edwards' success to the team's success.  One cannot happen without the other.  This team will go as Edwards goes.

Blame it on the offensive line if you want.  I'm not buying it.  You're not going to have perfect protection every play, and if your quarterback isn't poised enough to take advantage of a clean pocket or make something happen/avoid disaster when the play breaks down, the line isn't close to being your biggest problem.

I mentioned above that I'm not a guy who freaks out over every little detail.  It's pretty clear that Edwards still gives this team the best chance to win on Sundays.  I'm nowhere near proclaiming the 2009 season a lost cause, nor am I making plans to watch every Oklahoma, Texas, Florida and Mississippi game I can this year.  This team, in my mind (and it's a mind whose sanity I'm sure many of you will question), still has a chance to be good this year.  But it's only a chance, and it's only ever been a chance.  The chances become smaller if we don't get significantly improved play from Trent Edwards.  That is, unfortunately, the sad reality of the situation - Edwards will really, truthfully, make or break the 2009 season.