New blood: Edwards gives team hope at QB

In the first part of the BFR's position previews, Tyler Dunne says the Bills' success this season will be directly tied to No. 5. Following a laundry list of QB failures in Western New York, Edwards is a different breed...

The Buffalo Bills have been around this block before. Really, it's getting old.

Todd Collins, assumed as the seamless heir apparent to Jim Kelly.

Rob Johnson, worshiped after a couple promising spot fill-ins for Mark Brunell in Jacksonville.

Drew Bledsoe, anointed after five years past his prime.

J.P. Losman, entrusted as the anti-Bledsoe – lively and young.

All were so promising, so ideal in their own way. But that harmonious arrow shot the hearts of Bills fans quickly eroded into a well-hawked Bryan Cox loogie. Zero playoff wins since Kelly retired. Zero consistency at quarterback. It's a painful correlation that has torn locker rooms and forced the franchise to constantly hit the Reset button. So why in the heck should Bills fans subscribe to the fifth edition? Better yet, why subscribe to anything Bills-related when the team itself jerks around its fan base with an Art Modell-pompousness?

Because maybe, just maybe, Trent Edwards is different.

He doesn't lack confidence like Collins, interest like Johnson, pocket presence like Bledsoe or poise like Losman. Edwards is a cool customer with an NFL-build and NFL tools. Sure, last season, he wasn't pretty. Edwards didn't crash Internet connections as a result of fantasyfootballites collectively scooping him up off the waiver wire. The numbers were Dilferish, no doubt (1,630 yards, 7 TD, 8 Int. in 10 games).

But an aura followed Edwards. It suggests, that yes, he is different. Throughout his rookie season, Edwards was unfazed through peaks and valleys. A costly interception under the Monday Night glow against the unbeaten Dallas Cowboys did not derail Edwards' freshman season as it could have. His ice-cold 30-yard completion to Josh Reed with 27 seconds left demoralized Washington. And the following week's four-touchdown wipeout of Miami showed he is capable of hitting the home run.

Buffalo's success this season will ultimately be linked to Trent Edwards. The Bills lack a plethora of offensive weapons. Marshawn Lynch is a gritty, not elite back right now. And the defense – for all of its flashy new faces – remains a unit that was second-to-worst last season.

But if Edwards limits turnovers, exploits seven-man fronts via play-action and stays healthy, then the Bills could be a playoff team. He must set the tone for success – sustained drives, six points instead of three and the occasional back-breaking bomb downfield.

Unlike Losman, Edwards has the tools to do it too. Physically, at 6-foot-4, 231 pounds, Edwards can scan the entire field and is powerful enough to stick the ball anywhere. Mentally, it appears Edwards has picked up Turk Schonert's scheme (9-for-11, 104 yards, 2 TD in his only extensive preseason action). Naturally, he's a leader. An entire collegiate career of annihilation in Stanford's backfield of death equipped Edwards to handle adversity.

Quarterbacks decay annually because of thin skin. Intangibly, there are no doubts hovering Edwards. The surfer complex that haunted Johnson and Losman and ego complex that haunted Bledsoe do not cloud Edwards.

Fully aware of the embarrassing quarterback carousel before him, Edwards stays humble. Boring, but steadfast with a dose of realism.

"If you're not winning, if you're not making the playoffs, if you're not putting fans in the stands and making money, then you're not going to have a job the following season," Edwards said. "So you have to take advantage of that window of opportunity."

The lock on that window was jammed most of last year.

Buffalo's offense drew the ratings of a 3 a.m. CSPAN Book Review last season, totaling a pathetic 20 touchdowns all season and 2 million channel-changes Sunday Ticket owners. Management did next-to-nothing to fix this problem from a personnel standpoint, opting to focus on defense. But Schonert's aggressive play-calling should give Edwards more opportunities to make Buffalo two-dimensional.

That will be the key.

Marshawn Lynch is a marked man. No, not by police anymore. Rather, defensive coordinators. Until Edwards establishes himself, opponents are bound to stack the line on first and second down and completely let the dogs out on third down. Fortunately, Edwards has the poise to stand in the pocket and deliver the ball without short-arming it. Whether Josh Reed, Roscoe Parrish, James Hardy or whoever is able get separation on cornerbacks and give Edwards the green light on the other end is a mystery.

At least for now, though, fans can be sure that Trent Edwards is a different signal-caller than the type they've become almost immune to. He's taking charge and leading the team into a fresh era. Again.

"His confidence has increased," guard Derrick Dockery said. "I think he's doing a tremendous job of leading by example. I've seen nothing but effort in getting us in the direction we need to go."

The GPS of this direction is Trent Edwards.

thdunne@gmail.com

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