Tyler Dunne: Coming out swinging, eh? This is definitely the No. 1 problem facing the Bills right now. They are paying Terrell Owens and Lee Evans more than $18 million just this season and somehow failed to score any offensive points last week. That's unacceptable. Owens may be the most prolific wideout of our generation. He must produce. Sure, Trent Edwards has been ultra-Trentative through three games, relying on checkdowns far too often. But Owens needs to point the finger back at himself, too. He has had multiple drops, including a deep ball against Tampa Bay and a key third down at New England.
The fact that the Bills fired their offensive coordinator one week before the regular season didn't help. Alex Van Pelt was doing color commentary for this team not too long ago. The quick hitches, screens and other high-percentage passes teams have called to appease Owens in the past aren't being called here in Buffalo. Owens had a stretch of 185 games with a reception for a reason. Teams fed him the ball somehow, someway, regardless of the coverage. So in that sense, Owens' gripe is justified.
But in the end, it's a combination of those three factors. T.O. himself. Edwards. And poor play-calling.
Q: Do the Bills really think Trent Edwards is the quarterback to lead them back to the playoffs?
TD: Not yet. This is his final chance. By signing Terrell Owens, Buffalo left Edwards with no more excuses, no more cop-outs. Buffalo has bypassed several quarterbacks in the draft in recent years, including Jay Cutler and Brady Quinn, because it was confident in its current stable.
The Bills can't possibly do that again if they wind up with a top 10 pick with a crack at someone in this loaded draft class. Edwards needed to take a giant leap forward in year three. Rather than cue rebuilding yet again, owner Ralph Wilson stuck with Dick Jauron. This decision somewhat trickled down to quarterback. Rather than reset with a new arm, the Bills decided to give Edwards a full vote of confidence. Ryan Fitzpatrick was brought in as a free agent, but nobody to realistically threaten Edwards' job.
To be sure, Buffalo won't stand pat again if Edwards continues to play small ball all year. The team has too much long-term money invested in deep threat Lee Evans to settle with a quarterback unwilling to push the ball downfield.
Q: The last time we saw Edwards in Miami, all he was doing was throwing short passes; how much, if at all, has that changed since then?
TD: Even with No. 81 in town, not much has changed. Edwards isn't taking shots downfield. Over the offseason, Edwards adopted the same training program as Drew Brees — the TRX system. The strenuous program created by a Navy SEAL relies on nylon straps against gravity, not weights. The thinking behind the change was to make it through a 16-game season (Edwards had been dinged up often through two seasons).
So, yes, he has a much stronger arm than people think. At training camp, Edwards showed the willingness to uncork passes beyond 20 yards. It simply hasn't transferred into production on game day. The tall, sturdy Edwards has been the same old hesitant quarterback. Last week against the Saints, he completed 20 of 35 passes for only 135 yards. He waited. He patted the ball. He waited. He was sacked four times.
It's time for Edwards to dial up some long balls. If not, he'll be out this time next year.
Q: How do you think the Bills will re-integrate Marshawn Lynch, who should be back from his NFL suspension this week, into the running game?
TD: Personally I don't think, Lynch should be playing too much quite yet. Fred Jackson has proven himself as a dangerous dual threat that's far more explosive than Marshawn Lynch. Buffalo would look foolish to shelve someone who ranks fourth in the entire league in rushing.
All indications so far this week point toward an equal time share. Head coach Dick Jauron said that he plans on "evenly distributing" the duo's workload. The offense could certainly use some punch, so maybe Lynch's presence will help. Expect Jackson to keep getting fed the majority of the carries for this week anyways.
Q: The offensive line starts two rookies and right tackle Brad Butler sustained a season-ending injury in Week 2; how has that unit held up so far?
TD: Much better than people expected. The Bills are fielding one of the youngest offensive lines in the history of the league, yet hasn't given the front office any reason to dig through the waiver wire. After an embarrassing string of penalties in Buffalo's MNF opener, left tackle Demetrius Bell has recovered admirably. Rookie guards Eric Wood and Andy Levitre are gritty run blockers that don't give up on plays. On the right side, Jonathan Scott was solid against New Orleans last week in place of Butler.
The Saints blitzed on roughly half of their plays last week, yet the line held up fine. Edwards' four sacks were an indictment on him just as much as the line. Considered one of the team's biggest weaknesses heading into this season, the line has kept its head above water fine.