Some holiday cheer finally came the Bills' way Wednesday night. Quarterback Trent Edwards (groin) is expected to start at Denver this Sunday. The team has also demoted J.P. Losman to third string, meaning Gibran Hamdan will play if Edwards' groin injury persisted.
While the season is lost for Buffalo (6-8), Edwards' return greatly enhances the significance of these final two games. Games against two playoff contenders, Denver and New England, will give Edwards two more chances to prove whether or not he is Buffalo's franchise quarterback.
Chances are, the Bills will give Edwards a third season as the starter (the typical QB shelf life these days). Yet a handful of options in free agency and a top 15 pick in a QB-rich draft could be prime bait to hook chief operating officer Russ Brandon. Options and cap space will be at Brandon's disposal.
The pressure's on Edwards to deliver.
He suffered the groin injury in the first half of the Bills' 10-3 loss to San Francisco. Since his departure, the Losman-led offense has been gruesome to watch. Losman has thrown one touchdown, four interceptions and fumbled six times (losing two). The zenith of this train wreck came 2:06 left in the Bills' loss to the New York Jets last weekend. Head coach Dick Jauron called a rollout pass when Buffalo could have simply ran out the time. Abram Elam forced a fumble from Losman's backside and Shaun Ellis rumbled in for the game-winning score.
Now Edwards has an opportunity to salvage Buffalo's colossal collapse.
"I'm getting back near there," Edwards said. "There's no more pain in there and that's why I'm out practicing and hopefully that pain won't come back and that's the issue now to make sure I'm getting enough reps, but make sure I'm not developing any pain in there."
Before injuring his groin, Edwards was also struggling. Upstaged in each of Buffalo's crucial three straight losses to division opponents, Edwards sharply digressed from an encouraging September. For the season he has 2,378 passing yards with 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. In his last full game before the groin ailment, he did post his best game of the season. At Kansas City, Edwards had two gutsy rushing touchdowns in traffic, two scores through the air and 273 yards on 75 percent passing.
Buffalo needs to know who Trent Edwards is: the self-destructed quarterback afraid to throw the ball 10 yards downfield after three picks against Cleveland or the calm, cool, collected leader that guided Buffalo to a 4-0 start? Two games against quality opponents should shed some insight on this.
Each team in the AFC East made changes at the quarterback position (for various reasons) and reaped the rewards for it. New England, New York and Miami enter the final two weeks deadlocked at 9-5. You can bet in the N.F.L. (Not For Long), the Bills will be open to other possibilities at the game's most important position.
Matt Cassel and Kurt Warner will both be free agents. And in the upcoming draft, Georgia's Matt Stafford, Florida's Tim Tebow and Texas Tech's Graham Harrell could be intriguing options amongst a bevy of others in a solid QB class.
Meanwhile, the promotion of Hamdan is a smart decision. The move may be one week too late, but it at least ensures that free agent-to-be Losman has taken his last snap as a Bill. Why even give Losman the chance to impress other suitors? See what you have in Hamdan, a virtual unknown.
In three of the Bills' four preseason games, Hamdan went 30-of-47 for 258 yards. Edwards attests his groin and mechanics are fine. But if he goes down, Hamdan's the man.