Bills Quick Hits

BFR's Patrick Moran hits on an array of key topics as the Bills gear up for their first game of the Toronto Series...

--- Many people, especially Bills fans were left scratching their heads at how little starting quarterback Trent Edwards played last Saturday night at Washington. Edwards played in only two series and attempted five passes, completing just one. The move was seen as peculiar by most for a guy with all of 10 starts in his short career.

It's customary for established starters like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Donovan McNabb to have a quick cup of coffee before departing during the preseason. But for a team with a young quarterback, an offense that struggled most of last year and early through this camp, and with a brand new coordinator in Turk Schonert, it was assumed Edwards would see far more playing time.

It wasn't the case last week and don't expect a big change Thursday night when the Bills play the Pittsburgh Steelers in Toronto. Head coach Dick Jauron was asked about Edwards and said he not likely to play "significantly" more than he did against the Redskins. You can expect to see Edwards for three series, four at the most before giving way to JP Losman, Gibran Hamden and Matt Baker. Jauron said he never considered leaving Edwards in longer at Washington, and it's doubtful he sees more than the start of the second quarter against the Steelers.

Jauron is one of those old-school coaches stuck in his ways. The feeling here is he's making a mistake by not permitting Edwards as many snaps during live game action as possible. You can never take away too much for a preseason game, but one thing agonizingly obvious is this is an offense in need of a lot of work.

--- If the offensive line was already in bad shape without holdout Jason Peters (it is), it wasn't helped Monday night after reserve tackles Matt Murphy and Patrick Estes both went down with injuries. Of the two, Murphy's injury is far more serious, severely injuring his shoulder and having to be taken to the hospital for a MRI. He could be out long term. Estes hurt his left leg. He was there for there for practice today but unable to participate and had his leg heavily wrapped. The damage leaves Buffalo with only seventh round rookie Demetrius Bell backing up current starters Langston Walker and Kirk Chambers.

Jauron doesn't want to sign another tackle and has begun working Brad Butler at right tackle with the second team. Butler played the position at Virginia in college, but is going into season two as the starting right guard.

While the move is precautionary at this point, if Peters doesn't report before the season starts and Chambers isn't deemed by the coaching staff as starter worthy, it's feasible to see a switch where Butler would start at right tackle and Jason Whittle would move into the right guard spot.

--- Speaking of Peters, my colleague, Senior NFL Analyst Ed Thompson was recently interviewed. He said Peters had made a huge mistake with his hold out.

"He's sitting at home deepening the divide between him and a team that I believe will negotiate a new deal with him -- if he simply reports to camp." Thompson said.

Thompson also noted Peters has been paid upfront money for this year, making his cap number for this year $4.45- million and not the $3.25-million widely reported. He also thinks Peters could be using a holdout as a strategy to "avoid the doldrums of summer camp, knowing that his spot is waiting for him when he does return."

Lastly, Thompson expects Peters to report to camp before the start of the season and a new deal will get done, but warns he doesn't expect the Bills to bend on the issue if he doesn't show up in camp.

To me, it's a situation neither party ends up winning. From the Bills side, paying Peters without forcing him to come to camp and demonstrating good faith sets a bad model for the future. If Butler for example, just given a contract extension this summer suddenly becomes a pro bowl guard, does that give him the right to demand more money next season? The front office caving to Peters certainly gives players more leverage for future negotiations.

If you're on Peters side, he's unquestionably the most important player on the Bills, one of the league's best tackles and at 26 years old, he's just entering the prime of his career. It emphatically add up to him deserving a lot more than what he's being paid now. It's not unreasonable for Peters to seek money in the $8-million per year range.

Apart from what side of the track you're on, it's easy to conclude this is an issue which must be resolved before the seventh of September. The Bills aren't nearly as good a football team without Peters in uniform. The offense is young, unproven and often struggles with him in the lineup. Without him, the team has to move Walker to the left side and start Chambers on the right. That's a line that verges on pitiful.

--- Rookie wide receiver James Hardy is getting better every day. The second round draft pick scored the Bills lone touchdown in last Saturday's loss at Washington. After the game he was more concerned about missing assignments, a false start and a dropped pass than the beautiful 16-yard touchdown grab. Hardy's working hard at practice and it's slowly paying off. He had his best practice of camp by a mile Monday night, highlighted by a 50-yard bomb caught from Trent Edwards after the six-foot-five receiver got between starters Terrence McGee and Ko Simpson.

"He's getting better every day," said Bills wide receiver coach Tyke Tolbert. "He's got a lot of work to do, but he's starting to learn how to get off the line and into his patterns a lot crisper. He came into camp knowing as a rookie there are a lot of challenges to playing the game at this (NFL) level, and with each day he's getting better at meeting those challenges."

Hardy should get another chance to shine with the first team Thursday night. With Josh Reed's back still an issue, Hardy will likely start again opposite Lee Evans.

--- One of the more captivating battles of camp continues to be the race for the fifth receiver spot. Justin Jenkins and Steve Johnson figured to be the combatants, but lately Felton Huggins has come from nowhere to enter the fray. Felton had two catches during practice, one each from JP Losman and Gibran Hamden that would've each went for at least 30-yards. He also could've scored a touchdown at Washington last Saturday had Hamden not overthrown him.

Although most NFL teams keep only five receivers, there's a chance Buffalo ends up retaining six. Jenkins has done a good job as a gunner on special teams and if Johnson or Huggins beats him out for the fifth spot, the Bills may keep Jenkins anyway, especially if he continues to impress on special teams.

--- Safety Donte Whitner, who caused a stir nationally last month after guaranteeing to the Sporting News the Bills would make the playoffs, was back on the field today for a full practice. Whitner missed the Washington game with a sore ankle but Jauron expects him to play Thursday night.

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