John Crist: While I certainly don't think he's going to be a Pro Bowler any time soon, Trent Edwards looks to be a quality QB capable of winning games. What can he do statistically if he puts together a career year?
Tyler Dunne: This is definitely the make-or-break year for Edwards. Now that he has a loaded stable of receivers, including Terrell Owens, he needs to stay healthy and produce. During camp he has definitely shown more confidence in his deep ball, willing to take chances downfield. That's a good sign considering he was often hesitant to do so last year.
In a career year, I see Edwards throwing for 3,500 yards and 24 touchdowns. He has the weapons to do it this year, unlike the previous two. Staying healthy – he was knocked out in each of his first two years – and being decisive downfield are the keys, though.
JC: Kevin Jones came close to leaving Chicago for Buffalo in the offseason, although he eventually re-signed with the Bears. Provided he went to the Bills, what kind of role did they have in store for him?
TD: When Marshawn Lynch was nailed for gun possession and Fred Jackson was negotiating for a new contract, the Bills front office went into panic/attack mode. Nobody knew exactly what Roger Goodell would do for punishment, and Jackson wasn't showing up to offseason work. Therefore, Buffalo welcomed a slew of backs in on visits, including Jones. After a while, the team finally settled on Dominic Rhodes. Jackson re-signed, and Lynch's punishment turned out to only be three games.
If Jones were in Buffalo, he'd probably have a similar role as Rhodes. Tough to say exactly what that role will be so far. Jackson will start during Lynch's three-game suspension to begin the year – with Rhodes sprinkled in for 5-10 carries. Beyond that, who knows? Lynch will most likely resume as the bell-cow back when he returns with Jackson complementing him. Rhodes could see time as a third-down back. Jones would have simply been quality insurance to a then-shaky situation at running back.
JC: One of the biggest stories of the offseason was Terrell Owens signing with the Bills. For a franchise that's struggled for so many reasons, was this move more about winning games or grabbing headlines?
TD: Definitely a mix of both. Buffalo wasn't able to reel in any free-agent receivers during the auction-like frenzy in March. With only Marvin Harrison and others available, the front office needed to do something. Further, the fan base was still angry at the team retaining embattled head coach Dick Jauron.
A marketing boost was certainly needed. With T.O., the team has gotten that and more. Owens, tweet by tweet, has made the organization relevant again. This is a team that has shied away from egomaniac stars the entire decade. After asking for it on his Twitter account, Owens has his own (Verizon-sponsored) section of "T.O.'s Tweeters" at camp. On Thursday, a handful of kids in that section were screaming "Getcha TOs!" for the entire two-hour practice while holding a box of Owens' cereal.
Annoying? Very. But needless to say, the team has an unprecedented buzz this summer. Will it transfer to more wins? Eh, I doubt it. There are so many other question marks on the team's roster. Owens should help the offense score more points, but it remains to be seen if it transfers to wins.
JC: Jairus Byrd, who is the son of Bears assistant coach Gill Byrd, went to Buffalo in the second round of the NFL Draft. How's he coming along so far, and is he going to make a splash in his rookie year?
TD: Impossible to tell so far. Byrd hasn't practiced due to surgery on a sports hernia. Nobody's quite sure when he'll return. Byrd has idly stood by on the sidelines during camp. If he's healthy, look for him to give Buffalo a much-needed playmaker in deep center.
No player on the Bills' defense had more than three interceptions last year. There is a distinct lack of game changers on the roster defensively. Byrd is expected to compete for a starting job at free safety when he's healthy. As you mentioned, genes are on his side.
JC: Bears fans are quite familiar with Dick Jauron. Just like he did with the Bears, he's held on to the Buffalo gig longer than many people expected. Is he out of a job if the Bills don't make the playoffs in 2009?
TD: You bet. Jauron needs to deliver this year, or he'll be out. Or at least he should be. Jauron has been the epitome of mediocrity after three straight 7-9 seasons. Many believe last year's plunge from 4-0 to 7-9 merited a dismissal. But for some reason, probably the ownership's penny-pinching ways, Jauron was retained.
T.O.'s arrival has risen the urgency level throughout the team. Although the Bills face a daunting schedule – AFC South and NFC South opponents – Jauron needs to win. After weekly coaching blunders and minimal team improvement over the last three years, Jauron is running out of time. Outside of one year with the Bears, Jauron hasn't accomplished much in his career.
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Behind Enemy Lines: Part II
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