Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't the most physically gifted quarterback in the NFL. But rather than work on Wall Street, the Harvard product has carved out a six-year NFL career by using his smarts, savvy and toughness.
Fitzpatrick will start Sunday against the New England Patriots after getting the nod Monday from coach Chan Gailey to replace Trent Edwards.
For Bills fans and Fitzpatrick it's deja vu all over again.
He replaced the ineffective Edwards for six of the final seven games last season and took the majority of snaps in nine games overall, posting a 5-4 record. Edwards was 1-5 and after starting 0-2 this year, Gailey got the hook out early citing his team's dire need to find a "spark."
The Bills rank dead last in the NFL in yards per game (176), passing yards per game (89) and points (8.5).
"He wouldn't be here if he didn't have some great qualities," Gailey said. "You don't make it to this level without those kinds of qualities and hopefully with his experience as a starter he'll be able to go in there, not be too fast for him, and he'll be able to handle what we're trying to do offensively and see if we can get some more momentum or different momentum going."
Edwards was 29 of 55 for 241 yards, one TD, two interceptions and a QB rating of 58.3 in his two starts. He was sacked seven times and Fitzpatrick will have to play behind this same suspect line.
He is, however, regarded as being more decisive in the pocket, which will help the line. Edwards' inability to get the ball downfield has dogged Buffalo's attack for too long.
In 2009, top receiver Lee Evans had 12 catches for 159 yards (13.25 per-catch average) and one TD with Edwards playing and 27 catches for 410 yards (15.2 per-catch average) and six TDs with Fitzpatrick playing.
Fitzpatrick said he didn't have a hunch a change was coming.
"No. I was in the backup role," he said. "My role as a backup was to support Trent and do everything I can to help the team win. When Chan (Gailey) brought me in today and told me I was going to be the guy, the flip of a switch (occurred). Now, I've got to go in to that starter role and perform as a starter."
Counting time with Cincinnati, Fitzpatrick is 10-15-1.
Lynch Gets The Call
--The interesting timing of Marshawn Lynch getting his first start in the Buffalo backfield since midway through 2009 could not be overlooked. Lynch's name has been dragged through trade rumors ever since the team picked C.J. Spiller in the first round. No move was made in the offseason or in training camp, so the team came into the season with three capable backs. Spiller started the opener against Miami and struggled, and it was thought that Fred Jackson, who took Lynch's job last year, would start against Green Bay. Instead, it was Lynch, and it was almost as if the Bills were showing him off to the Packers who are in need of a running back now that Ryan Grant is out for the season. Neither side acknowledged a trade is in the works, but you have to wonder.
--Chris Kelsay has been working hard to reinvent himself. A defensive linemen his entire college and NFL career, he has been asked to play OLB in the Bills' new 3-4 defense. Kelsay seems fine against the run, and is even a little more mobile because his hand's not on the ground. However, he looks like a fish out of water in pass coverage. The Packers, managed to get TE Jermichael Finley lined up on Kelsay one-on-one and he beat Kelsay easily for a 34-yard gain. "They have a lot of receivers and a great receiving tight end," said Kelsay. "They executed and we didn't; they had a good day and we didn't."
Trouble Along The Line
--The offensive line is struggling enough, and lacks quality depth, so losing left guard Andy Levitre was a blow. Levitre suffered a neck stinger in the second quarter against Green Bay and could not return. Undrafted free agent Cordaro Howard was the only reserve guard active, and he came in and held his own, but the line had a tough time protecting Trent Edwards who was sacked four times. "It's very discouraging," said offensive guard Eric Wood. "It's terrible. We have to find out who we are and everybody needs to get better. We have to get it fixed quick or we're going to dig ourselves a pretty big hole."
New Faces On D
--Veteran linebackers Reggie Torbor and Akin Ayodele both made their debuts for the Bills, but they played minimal roles at Green Bay. Torbor earned one of the starting outside spots in camp, but he suffered a chest injury that sidelined him for the final two preseason games and the opener against Miami. It was thought that he would start in Green Bay after practicing all week, but Chris Ellis was on the field at the beginning. Ayodele was signed as a free agent just before the start of the season when Kawika Mitchell went on IR, and after being inactive in Week 1, he saw some time against the Packers, but is still getting accustomed to the calls and his teammates.