Behind Enemy Lines: Chargers vs. Bills I

Our Scout.com experts, Tyler Dunne of BuffaloFootballReport.com and Michael Lombardo of SDBoltReport.com, analyze Sunday's game between the Bills and Bolts at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Let's start this series with six questions from Michael to Tyler.

Michael Lombardo: Talk about the progress QB Trent Edwards has shown over the last two seasons. How do you like his matchup against a pass defense that ranks No. 7 in interceptions but No. 31 in yards allowed?

Tyler Dunne: The foundation was always there with Edwards. His calm presence was evident on Day One. Unlike J.P. Losman, Edwards is rarely frazzled in the pocket. The savvy poise was engrained -- even as a rookie.

The question with Edwards was whether he'd develop into a big-play threat. Losman supporters pointed to the deep ball. For every two bad games, Losman would hurl a game-changing bomb of 70-plus yards to Lee Evans. Well, now it's clear Edwards has that ability. He packed on a ton of upper-body strength in the offseason and it shows in his delivery. Balls have more zip, and he's taking more chances down the field -- which is also a product of new coordinator Turk Schonert's diverse gameplan.

Against San Diego, Edwards could be effective. While the Chargers do boast a ball-hawking secondary, Edwards rarely gives defenses the occasional freebie. He takes his shots when they present themselves. If he's fully recovered from a concussion two weeks ago, he should have a productive day against San Diego.

ML: When A.J. Smith and the late John Butler came to San Diego in 2001, their first draft pick was RB LaDainian Tomlinson. Instantly, comparisons were made between Tomlinson and former Bills great Thurman Thomas. Now, Marshawn Lynch is hearing those same comparisons to Thomas. How accurate are those comparisons and how good can Lynch be?


RB Thurman Thomas
Ed Reinke/AP

TD: I'd say the LT-Thurman comparison is more accurate. Both are dangerous open-field threats who can do damage in the passing game. Lynch is more of a porcupine back between the tackles.

Lynch hasn't busted loose on any long runs this season (his longest is 22 yards), but he can wear down a defense. He turns 2-yard gains into 4-yard gains. While his 3.5-yard average doesn't seem like much, Lynch has set the tone for Buffalo's offense. He's a bruiser, not a cruiser like LT and Thomas.

ML: San Diego's defense has struggled to defend tight ends this season, but it doesn't appear the Bills have a pass-catching tight end capable of exploiting that weakness. What will Buffalo do to attack the vulnerable middle of San Diego's secondary?

TD: Great question. Robert Royal showed flashes during the preseason of being a possible between-the-hashes threat, but he has been average in five games with about 20 yards per game.

To exploit the middle of the field, Buffalo will look to slot receiver Josh Reed. While he's often been criticized for not living up to his second-round billing, Reed is on pace for his best season with the Bills. Edwards has located him often this season (Reed leads the team with 21 receptions). Even No. 1 wideout Lee Evans has dubbed Reed a "cornerstone" on the offense.

With Roscoe Parrish just returning from a thumb injury and rookie James Hardy clearly still being a raw, down-the-road project, Reed has been vaulted into a significant role within Schonert's new offense. And the plague of drops that dogged Reed early in his career has apparently faded.

ML: What are your thoughts on the play of offseason addition Marcus Stroud? What does he bring to the table and how much has he improved the players around him?


DT Marcus Stroud
David Duprey/AP

TD: The play of Paul Posluszny is most indicative of Stroud's impact. Without blockers in his wake, Posluszny has flourished. He has 34 tackles and is active on nearly every possession. A lot of his success has to be traced to Stroud, who engulfs double-teams and fullbacks on a game-to-game basis.

Drawing optimal attention, Stroud has given a greener light to everyone else on the defense. Still, he is having a solid season in his own right. Stroud had two critical pass knockdowns against his old team, Jacksonville, and has 18 tackles and two sacks thus far. But for a defense that is fresh off finishing near dead-last in every category last season, Stroud has had a Reaganomic trickle-down effect through the whole defense.

ML: Buffalo's secondary is loaded with young studs, from rookie CB Leodis McKelvin to third-year safeties Donte Whitner and Ko Simpson. Talk about the play of those three in particular. How you like their matchups against the likes of TE Antonio Gates and WRs Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson?

TD: McKelvin is slowly working his way into more defensive packages. While Jabari Greer and Ashton Youboty are better cover guys for now, McKelvin brings a major speed complex to the secondary.

The safety pair of Whitner and Simpson has definitely exceeded expectations. The duo rarely blows assignments. With the exception of Kurt Warner, no quarterback this season has found a rhythm against the Bills defense. The range of Whitner and steadiness of Simpson have been key.

Neither Whitner nor Simpson is a game-breaker. In their combined careers, they only have four picks. But the Bills rarely have to worry about teams beating them deep. Against San Diego's Big Three, I think Buffalo will bend but not break. While Philip Rivers is hot, the Bills defense should rebound after the bye week.

ML: Buffalo's special teams are always amongst the NFL's best, led by the play of Terrence McGee and Roscoe Parrish. However, the Chargers have a dangerous return man of their own in Darren Sproles. What kind of role do you expect the special teams to play in this contest?

TD: Special teams could decide this game. There sure is a ton of talent bottled up in the return game; it's just a matter of who shakes the bottle and cracks open a big run.

Parrish is back from thumb surgery, but McGee will not play (knee). Still, the Bills boast a cavalry of dangerous returners. Leodis McKelvin, Parrish and Fred Jackson are all legitimate threats in the open field.

That being said, I think Sproles is the best returner in the game. Any time he doesn't bring a kick back for 35 yards is a surprise. If that ankle sprain doesn't hinder him too much, he'll probably break at least one long run against Buffalo.

Tyler Dunne is a long-time contributor to Scout.com and the current publisher of BuffaloFootballReport.com. He previously reported for PackerReport.com.


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