As of now, J.P. Losman has been handed the reigns while rookie quarterback Trent Edwards recovers from a wrist injury. There is a lot of rumor fueling the quarterback situation in Buffalo. One of those rumors is that Ralph Wilson is the one who said Edwards is to be the starter. If that’s the case, it is entirely possible that Dick Jauron is actually in favor of Losman. A lot of people have been over-reacting to a few comments made by players saying that they don’t know who made the decision at quarterback, indicating somebody in the offices upstairs made the call. I hate to burst the bubble of the Jauron haters, but this is the way a perfectly managed football team is managed. It is ideal for the personnel decisions to be made behind closed doors in such a way that the coach can say, “My job is to coach you guys, their job is to make personnel decisions.” It doesn’t make the coach’s job easier if a player like Lee Evans is holding him responsible for benching his best friend.
The reality is that J.P. Losman threw for over 3000 yards last season and was ranked 11th in the NFL. To say he is completely unproven or incapable of scoring multiple touchdowns or managing the offense is not only a mis-statement, its naive. Losman has done all of these things in the past for the Buffalo Bills. In the two games he played in full this season he faced the best pass defenses in the league and struggled under an ultra-conservative game plan, meant to try to keep the defense (riddled with injuries) off the field. None of this worked out, but all the blame shouldn’t be put on Losman. In reality, Edwards has been even more ineffective at the end of the day. He looks good completing lots of short passes but ultimately hasn’t been scoring or executing plays that gain more than 9.9 yards.
So Losman is handed a start because of Edwards injury. I seriously doubt that Jauron will hold back Losman in an attempt to prove Edwards is his guy, this again is ridiculous. Any suggestion that any football team is hoping for a player to not be successful, or only playing for next year is just stupid. Every team plays to win, every week. Period. Any suggestion otherwise is just silly. Likewise, the suggestions made by the fans and media that the Bills WANT to move out of Buffalo is moronic. Its true that the Buffalo market isn’t the strongest, but if the team really wanted to move, they would just do it. There’s no reason whatsoever to go through any steps leading up to it. If the Buffalo Bills wanted to move to Toronto, they would just move. Toronto has expressed the interest etc. Reality once again shows that the Buffalo Bills make every effort to make the team more viable in its current market. Regardless of what fans may think, the Bills actually sell an awful lot more tickets than many teams in the league, however they have a very large stadium considering the population of the Buffalo area. (Indianapolis seats 30,000 less people than the Ralph) I mention all this because some have actually been foolish enough to suggest that the Bills are favoring Edwards for financial reasons. This is just idiotic at best. There is no way that is the case. Edwards came into favor because he looks more calm in the pocket. Looks can be deceiving however since the results of his play are not impressive.
But back to Losman, who may very well be starting for the next two weeks as Edwards hasn’t even been able to practice and may not even be active this week with an injury to his throwing wrist. Losman finally has the opportunity to play in a game with a functional offense against a defense that isn’t tops in the league. This is the type of game where Losman is likely to hook up with Lee Evans for several big plays. Since the Bills now have a functional offensive line, Bills fans will also be surprised when Losman hits his tight ends throughout the game. Losman has been criticized for not throwing to his tight ends enough. Realistically however, you can expect Losman to throw to a tight end who is not running a pattern. Losman hit Robert Royal regualrly late in the season in 2006 when the team was able to release a tight end into the pattern. Prior to that it almost never happened so it wasn’t like Losman was missing open tight ends, they just weren’t in the picture. Losman’s first pass last week when he came in late in the Jets game went to TE Derek Schouman for a decent gain.
One of the things Losman must do in the Bengals game is prove to his team and the fans that he can hit receivers for the short gain as well as he can throw the deep ball. Everyone knows that Losman can throw deep strikes to Lee Evans as well as, if not better than, anyone in the league. The big but has been in the short game. Losman often has games where he just doesn’t seem to have a good feel for the “touch” on the ball in the short game. Marshawn Lynch should make this less of a factor. The Bengals soft defense should make for a fun day for Marshawn Lynch. Losman should be in a lot fewer obvious passing downs.
To put numbers on it, in order to make a strong statement that he should be the starter, Losman needs to have a 300 yard plus performance, but that performance must not be built solely on 3-4 big completions from Lee Evans. 300 yards made up from several deep bombs will keep the controversy brewing. 300 yards spread around the field to running backs, tight ends and wide outs with the deep bomb mixed in once or twice will start to win him support. That alone won’t get him his starting job back.
Losman also needs to score. Not just field goals but touchdowns. Multiple touchdowns is something Edwards has not been able to produce. If Losman can score 3 touchdowns and add a few field goal drives, it will be hard to bench him. The Bills have not been able to score all season. I don’t think they necessarily have to even be passing touchdowns. If Lynch runs for two and Losman throws for one, I think Losman gets the job. There are other factors that would also make a strong statement.
The Bills so far this season have been horrible on third downs, converting around 25% regardless of which quarterback is in. If Losman can bring that up to about 50% or better it goes a long way. Edwards has been touted for his accuracy and high completion percentage, but actually is only 66% to Losman’s 64%. If Losman can complete a high percentage of his passes (70+%) it will also work very well in his favor. First downs have been hard coming as well so the more the better. Time of possession is always good, but not critical to Losman’s future. Losman is a quick strike type of passer.
The most important thing for Losman is that he avoid that “Happy Feet” look that he has been known to get in the pocket. It often results in a big loss sack when he shoudl just throw the ball away. Edwards has been praised for his poise (So Poised he was like a statue against the Jets and paid the price), there fore Losman needs to permanently ditch the “happy feet” look. For all the poise, Edwards hasn’t put up better numbers than Losman, so if Losman can look good while he plays it will help set a lot of minds at ease. Based on his interviews this week, he seems pretty calm.
Losman will be under tremendous pressure to play well both for his career (whether he remains in Buffalo or not his performance on Sunday will effect his salary next year) and for the team. If the Bills lose this one the odds drop significantly for the team making the playoffs. This team was 2 seconds away from being 5-2 so they feel they are underrated. That takes the pressure off, but it also means that if they want to contend they have to beat 2-5 teams. If they beat Cincinnati and Miami, lose to New England, they are 5-5 with six games remaining. Those six teams are Jacksonville, Washington, Miami, Cleveland, NY Giants and Philadelphia. At this point the Bills could easily beat Miami and Philadelphia but the other four games will be tough. Jacksonville and Washington are on the road, the Giants are hot, and Cleveland is playing better than Buffalo at this point in the season. The Bills would have to win two of those to have a shot at a Wild Card. If the Bills lose to the Bengals they would need 3. It becomes far fetched at that point but not impossible.