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5 Good Questions: Buffalo Bills Edition

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Well as we often do here leading up to gameday, I recently got the chance to exchange questions with Brian G from the top Buffalo Bills site on the net, Buffalo Rumblings.  Below are his responses to my questions.  To check out my responses to his questions, head on over to his site.

Even though it isn't likely he plays on Sunday, I'm still curious about your take on how rookie QB Trent Edwards has played.  Also, which QB, Edwards or J.P. Losman, is more likely to be the team's QB moving forward into 2008 and beyond?

I think fans have been impressed with Edwards due to the fact that the Bills went 2-1 with him as the starter, while the rookie completed nearly 70% of his passes in those contests.  For a rookie (those are the key words), Edwards has shown great maturity and poise, and he's been incredible as far as those two aspects of his game go.  But he's got a long ways to go - he's still thrown 5 picks to just 1 TD, and he was plenty flustered before going down with his wrist injury against the Jets.  That, coupled with J.P. Losman's big-play potential, is why I've maintained all along that the veteran should be playing.

As far as the future goes, I don't think there's any question that Edwards is Dick Jauron's guy.  The coaches love his accuracy, game management and ability to hit the big play in a calculated fashion. He has a very good chance at becoming an upper-tier starter in this league; the fact that Edwards was handed the job after Losman was injured is the telling sign.  Players don't lose their job to injury unless there's something else going on behind the scenes.

You recently called Marshawn Lynch "the best rookie not named Peterson" (though I would argue that based on his 3.9 ypc average and just 12 catches).  What has your impression of Lynch been thus far and what kind of player do you think he will become 2 or 3 years down the road?  Are we talking elite, top 5 running back or more like top 10 to 15 RB?

You try running for 4 yards per carry when you have a revolving door at QB, the lack of a #2 wideout and a not-quite-gelled offensive line.  You try catching more than 12 passes when your passing attack is so anemic that your top wideout, Lee Evans, has just 31 grabs in 8 games. The fact of the matter is this: Lynch has been the only viable offensive threat game in and game out this year, and despite the negatives you brought up, he's still the fourth leading rusher in the NFL.  That's a huge feat over half a season for a rookie.  Seriously, I challenge you or your readers to name one rookie outside of Peterson who is more important to his team.

Lynch has marched into Buffalo and quickly become the most exciting Bill to watch.  The only reason few people are talking about his success is because of what Adrian Peterson is doing in Minnesota. Despite his vast potential, much of Marshawn's future depends on whether or not Buffalo can find an answer to the QB issue and create a consistent passing attack.  Until that happens, teams will continue to put 8 in the box to stop Lynch.

Somehow, some way, your Bills are 4-4 after starting the season at 0-3.  Who or what do you credit for this remarkable turnaround and do you think the success Buffalo has had over the past 5 games can be sustained for the rest of the season?

Well, "remarkable" is a strong word - Buffalo's four wins have come against the Jets (twice), Ravens and Bengals.  Combined record of those three teams: 7-18.  Not exactly the league's elite.  The reason for their turnaround record-wise is simply that they're beating teams they should beat.

With that said, I do believe that this turnaround is something the team can build on.  Buffalo's remaining schedule is tough every week, starting with this week's Miami game, so it's not going to be easy. But each week, it gets harder to discount Lynch, a tough, scrappy defense and an elite special teams unit.  This team is going to be a tough win for just about anybody (well, maybe not the Patriots).

I think that one of the most surprising things with your Bills team is how the defense ranks in the upper half of the league in points allowed.  If you had to pick one MVP on Buffalo's defense, who would it be?  Who has been the major factor in Buffalo only allowing 19.5 points per game?

This is a stat that carried over from last year - since installing the Cover-2 scheme at the beginning of last season, the Bills have been very good at limiting the score of their opponents. They're able to do it by creating timely turnovers, tackling extremely well and just playing their scheme intelligently.  That's really all it is.

Nobody on this defense has been a star, but if I had to choose an MVP, it would be LB Angelo Crowell.  The Bills have had a lot of linebackers miss time this season (Paul Posluszny, Keith Ellison, Coy Wire, John DiGiorgio), but Crowell's play has been steady throughout the year.  He's good in coverage, he's stellar against the run - he's pretty underrated, but he's been a calming influence for some of the depth guys who have been forced into action.

What kind of gameplan do you see Buffalo drawing up for Sunday's game and how do you see it playing out?

Buffalo's game plan is pretty similar every week.  Offensively, they'll try to pass early to open things up for Lynch and create balance - otherwise, Miami will clog the line of scrimmage with defenders all afternoon.  Losman passed for 227 yards in the first half of the Bengals game; look for the team to strive for similar production.

Defensively, Buffalo will try to take away Jesse Chatman and force Cleo Lemon to beat them.  The Bills' defense is at its best when the opposing offense is one-dimensional - they even employed this same strategy with Carson Palmer in town.  Palmer had a good game, but he wasn't good enough to pull out a win with the Bengals gaining just 28 yards on the ground.  If Miami's ground game is neutralized, the Bills will be able to send different blitz packages at Lemon and create a few turnovers.  If that happens, Miami could be in trouble.

Essentially, if Miami can get Chatman going, set up play-action and contain Lee Evans, they will give the Bills headaches.  If they miss on one of those areas, the Bills are getting better at taking advantage of those shortcomings.

I just wante to quickly touch on the Marshawn Lynch issue.  He asked if there's been any rookie other than A-Pete to be more valuable to their team than Lynch.  I would respond by saying that Joe Thomas has been just as valuable to his team's success as Lynch has to Buffalo's.  But you can't really quantify Thomas's effect so it's harder to compare.  But regardless of that, my point was that he isn't the best rookie not named Peterson.  I think Patrick Willis is far and away the 2nd best rookie this year.  He may not be as "valuable" to his team simply because of the position he plays, but he's a better player, in my opinion, than Lynch.  

Anyways, be sure to head over to Buffalo Rumblings to see how I responsed to his questions.