Let the second-guessing from the nosebleeds begin.
Brady Quinn has finally taken the field for the Cleveland Browns. Two drafts ago, the Buffalo Bills could have drafted Quinn. Could've reset the quarterback carousel one more time. But instead, Buffalo opted for the obvious choice – running back Marshawn Lynch.
This weekend, hindsight 20/20 will sink in with every Ron Jaworski drool-of-a-replay. Under the Monday Night glow, Quinn gets his first (of many) cracks at proving a team wrong. Quinn – who easily could have gone No. 1 overall – slipped all the way to the 22nd pick. That clichéd chip on his shoulder is sure to grow along Brady Quinn's Payback Tour.
On Monday though, it will become clear that Buffalo has the right guy under center. Clear, that it was wise for the Bills to go Marshawn Lynch-Paul Posluszny-Trent Edwards, 1-2-3 in that 2007 Draft.
Granted, Trent Edwards was miserable in the Bills most important stretch of the season. In three straight losses to AFC East foes, Edwards threw two touchdowns, five interceptions, coughed up two key fumbles and had an average passer rating of 66.1. Wretched, when it mattered most.
But on Monday Night, look for Edwards to rebound and quiet any we-should-have-taken-Quinn whining and/or Start Losman fodder. Even though he was drafted 70 picks after Quinn in the '07 Draft, Edwards will be the better quarterback on Monday Night.
The timing couldn't be better for Edwards.
Cleveland's pass defense, which ranks 20th in the NFL, has been leaky of late. Jay Cutler (447 yards, 3 TD, 1 Int.), Joe Flacco (248 yards, 2 TD, 0 Int.) and David Garrard (283 yards, 2 TD, 0 Int.) have each exploited a vulnerable Browns secondary.
Unlike the last few weeks against, Edwards will not be on the front line of Normandy Monday. There won't be pressure in his face in mid-dropback. He'll actually have four, five seconds to absorb the defense, go through his progressions, take his hitch step and deliver the ball. The Browns sacked Cutler last week only once in 40 attempts. In nine games this season, the Browns only have 14 sacks. Shaun Rogers (47 sacks, 4.5 sacks) has been on a terror, Cleveland's ‘D' hasn't improved much as a whole (27th in NFL).
Granted, the Bills offensive line has been repulsive lately. Kris Jenkins and Vince Wilfork are living proof that Buffalo is vulnerable against 3-4 defenses. Duke Preston sure would be a prime appetizer for Rogers. But Cleveland isn't New England (10 interceptions, 19 sacks), New York (34 sacks, 15 forced fumbles) or Miami (21 sacks, 11 forced fumbles). The Browns sappy pass rush will be a breath of fresh air for Edwards – a quarterback completely dependent on pass protection.
After surviving this gauntlet of games, Monday will be an awakening of sorts. Edwards will have more time in the pocket to put his fifth-ranked completion percentage (66.9) to use. With ample time to decipher coverages, Edwards has proven to be one of the league's most accurate passers in the league. Yeah, yeah. It's something our grandfathers keep yelling --- All he needs is a line! --- but it's true here. Whereas Losman panics at the sight of a linebacker stunting a blitz, Edwards is willing to coldly wait in the pocket for his receiver to break before firing a pass i.e. his clutch fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Roscoe Parrish against Oakland when he was slammed into the turf immediately after throwing.
The supporting cast remains about as talented as SNL's current lineup – painfully mediocre.
Go-to slot receiver Josh Reed (ankle) will likely miss his third straight game, but look for the Bills to employ a quick-hitting passing game regardless. Tight ends Robert Royal, Derek Schouman and Derek Fine should see the field often. Cleveland lacks a physical safety capable of roughing up tight ends on their routes. Denver's Tony Scheffler (4 receptions, 92 yards) and Dan Graham (3 rec., 50 yards, TD) had big nights last week.
Buffalo may go after Brandon McDonald
But most of all, Edwards and offensive coordinator Turk Schonert will try to pick on whoever is playing opposite of Eric Wright.
After getting torched against Denver, Brandon McDonald may split time with Travis Daniels at corner. In the past two games, McDonald has given up touchdown passes of 47, 93 and 11 yards, while also dropping two sure interceptions against Denver. In short, he's a liability.
Daniels is untested. Acquired in a trade back in August, Daniels has mostly just played special teams.
Ideally, Schonert will try to get Lee Evans on one of these two 1-on-1 and go deep. If the Browns are able to keep Wright matched up on Evans, Buffalo's other wideouts must step up. Roscoe Parrish, James Hardy, Steve Johnson, someone, anybody needs to step up. Unlike last season, when a Lake Erie blizzard wiped out Cleveland, the Bills' passing game will not be dumbed down to a Pop Warner, run-left, run-right level. Edwards will go vertical. Steve Fairchild and Mother Nature aren't around to stop him.
For at least one week, Edwards will quiet his doubters …detour Brady Quinn's Payback Tour…and get Buffalo back into the AFC East hunt.