Are Bills giving Edwards a fair shot?

September, 10, 2009
9/10/09
10:52
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- This was supposed to be Trent Edwards' big no-excuses season.

He purportedly had all the materials he would need. Three years into his NFL career, we were going to find out whether he deserved to be considered the Buffalo Bills' quarterback of the future.
George Gojkovich/Getty Images
Trent Edwards has a lot to adjust to this season: a new left tackle, new offensive coordinator and new offensive scheme to run.

That was the sentiment a month ago, maybe even a couple weeks ago.

Not anymore.

Edwards heads into 2009 with less support than he's ever had. If Edwards were to fall flat on his facemask this year, we still wouldn't know with any reasonable degree of certainty what he's capable of and whether he should be the man in 2010.

Within 10 days of the season opener, the Bills have made decisions that dim Edwards' chances of success.

Edwards, to his credit, isn't looking for excuses. It sounds like he still believes the Bills' offense depends mainly on him.

"I think that the position I am in -- with two years under my belt, with a lot of say in the way this offense goes -- a lot of the reason this offense is going to be where it needs to be is because of me," Edwards said. "I think that's a great opportunity for me."

About the only way we will discover anything new about Edwards is if he puts the team on his back and leads them to the playoffs.

Anything less can be justified by the circumstances the Bills' front office and coaching staff created.

The Bills released left tackle Langston Walker on Tuesday. Walker was their most experienced offensive lineman and the projected substitute when the Bills traded two-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters.

Walker -- and more accurately Peters -- is being replaced by Demetrius Bell, a second-year pro with no game experience. That gives the Bills three starting offensive lineman without a down of NFL playing time against the New England Patriots on Monday night.

Is that the wisest way to protect Edwards, who has missed games either at Stanford or with Buffalo because of shoulder, foot, wrist, concussion and groin injuries? Before the end of the season, Edwards will look like Beetle Bailey after a disagreement with Sarge.
AP Photo/David Duprey
Alex Van Pelt is Trent Edwards' third offensive coordinator in three years.

Edwards will be working with his third offensive coordinator in as many seasons. The Bills fired Turk Schonert on Friday and promoted quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt.

No less of an authority than Patriots quarterback Tom Brady noted how difficult it can be to adapt to a coaching change, even when the terminology stays the same and you've worked with the new playcaller before.

The Patriots lost offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in January, when he was named Denver Broncos head coach. Brady essentially is running the same offense under head coach Bill Belichick and quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien, who spent the past two seasons as New England's receivers coach.

Brady said he has been working for eight months to harmonize with O'Brien. Edwards is being asked to absorb Van Pelt's play-calling philosophies in about a week.

"It's always tough for quarterbacks to get used to new coaches and new systems," Brady said on a conference call Wednesday. "I think in these particular situations the systems are probably the same. But to understand a different terminology of what your coach is looking for, I know this year with a new quarterbacks coach, I've had to spend some extra preparation time so we can really be on the same page.

"The more you're on the same page, the more efficient you can be. There's only a certain amount of time each week you can prepare. You want to use that time as efficiently as possible."

Another Bills decision that mostly has gone overlooked because of the Schonert and Walker firings was Saturday's release of running back Dominic Rhodes, a move that will give Edwards one fewer option.

Edwards will have one viable back for the first three games -- a fifth of the season -- while Pro Bowler Marshawn Lynch serves a three-game suspension.

Fred Jackson is a capable runner and receiver. But the only other backs who'll dress are inexperienced sophomore Xavier Omon (six rushing attempts last year) and fullback Corey McIntyre (zero attempts).

Edwards was asked Wednesday if he felt there was a burden on his shoulders.

"I have 10 other guys on the offense right now that are feeling that 'burden,' if that's what you want to call it, and they're all excited for Monday night," Edwards said. "I think that our defense has been playing well all preseason, and our special teams are some of the best in this league.

"For me, as long as we put points on the board and don't turn the ball over, every week we can give our defense and special teams a chance. We’re going to be in football games, and I don't think of that as a burden at all."

Yet when we look back on 2009, we'll see plenty of burdens Edwards probably had no shot of overcoming.

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