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News » No debate: Edwards hits crucial time


No debate: Edwards hits crucial time


No debate: Edwards hits crucial time
Opinion on the Bills' draft is all over the lot. ESPN's Mel Kiper called it the best in the NFL. Peter King of Sports Illustrated called it "strange." The fan reaction ranges from outright glee to utter disgust.


But there's one thing everyone agrees on: Next season will be crucial for Trent Edwards. In fact, a lot of fans are already looking to next year's draft. Several have asked me if the Bills might take a quarterback if Edwards doesn't make sufficient strides next season.

It's a fair question. The Bills have addressed pass rush, offensive line, tight end. They have Terrell Owens for a year. But in the NFL, it always comes back to the guy with the Football in his hand, the man whose ability to make snap judgments and pinpoint throws determines the fate of a franchise.

That's why the Jets traded up to No. 5 to take Mark Sanchez. There are no guarantees, but if the Jets are right, they'll be right for a decade. Miami brought in Pat White to run the Wildcat. New England has Tom Brady coming back.

The Bills have been chasing the QB since Jim Kelly left his final game in a golf cart. They believe Edwards can be a star. I share their faith. But it's about time for Edwards, in his third season, to justify that belief.

There are no more excuses. Edwards has two quality receivers now in Owens and Lee Evans. Josh Reed is in his prime and one of the best slot receivers in the sport. They're deep at No. 4. The Bills drafted Shawn Nelson, a tight end who can stretch the field. They have three running backs who can catch the ball.

Jason Peters is gone, but the offensive line has a chance to be better. The tackles are weaker, but a lot of the pressure in recent years came up the middle. The interior of the O-line should be better. And it's amazing how good the pass protection can be when guys are open.

Edwards is quick and accurate when he has options. His arm strength is still an issue (along with his durability). You don't need a cannon in the NFL, but you have to keep defenses honest with the intermediate throws.

Last year, Edwards lost his confidence during a four-game stretch at midseason. He dumped off to his backs at the first sign of crisis. The Cleveland game was painful to watch. All the good will he had generated in the first half of the season evaporated, on national TV.

That meltdown overshadowed the progress Edwards made in his second year. He completed 65.5 percent of his passes. His yards per attempt was a respectable 7.2. The Bills were 7-5 in games he started and finished. But in 24 NFL games, Edwards has 18 TD passes and 18 interceptions. He has to be better than that.

It's tough to judge a QB when the second receiver position is a black hole. The Bills have given Edwards enough weapons to make an informed decision on his future. The pressure is on.

There's a lot at stake. Edwards is in the third year of a four-year deal. He is in the same place, contract-wise, as J.P. Losman was when Edwards came in as a rookie. If the Bills intend to give Edwards a lucrative extension, they'll want to do it after the third year. You lock up a franchise QB before the walk year.

Losman lost his job, and any chance of a new deal. There's no rookie QB on the scene this time, no way Edwards loses his job in season. But he has to perform if he expects Ralph Wilson to pay franchise quarterback money.

The draft is a time for wild optimism. Fans take comfort in rookie guards selected in the second round. The reality hits home in the fall, when games are won and lost at the quarterback position.

The Bills feel they're better after the draft. It's all talk if Edwards doesn't improve. Grim as it sounds, we might be sitting around next year at this time, debating the merits of Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy.

e-mail: jsullivan@buffnews.com



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 2, 2009

Matt McChesney Name: Matt McChesney
#95
Position: DT
Age: 26
Experience: 2 years
College: Colorado
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