Captain Checkdown doesn't go deep for Bills

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Buffalo Bills fans have given Trent Edwards a derisive nickname.

Edwards "Captain Checkdown" they call him for his reluctance to throw downfield despite having a couple of deep threats in Terrell Owens and Lee Evans.

Owens and Evans have combined for 13 receptions through three games, while running backs and tight ends get Edwards' seemingly undivided attention.

As an old friend texted after Sunday's loss, in which Owens had his reception streak snapped at 185 games by the New Orleans Saints: "When do you think heads will roll at One Bills Drive? They didn't pay T.O. and Evans 15 mil to be decoys for Derek Fine."

Actually, Owens is getting paid $6.5 million and Evans a base salary of $4.6 million this year. But I understand the sentiment.

Running back Fred Jackson has 15 receptions. Tight end Derek Schouman didn't play last week and is out for the season, yet he has caught only four fewer passes than Owens and Evans together. Fine has started one game at tight end but has as many catches as Owens -- five.

To see just how much Edwards deserved his Captain Checkdown moniker -- "Trentative Checkwards" hasn't caught on -- I broke out some situational passing numbers provided by ESPN Stats & Information, which tracks every NFL play.

Short passing games have gained popularity in recent years. Many teams employ that strategy, and I thought maybe Edwards wasn't too far off the norm.

Turns out, Captain Checkdown is quite appropriate.

Edwards' average pass travels 7.7 yards in the air. That's tied for 26th in the league among quarterbacks with at least 10 attempts.

As the accompanying chart shows, Edwards' stats plummet the farther his passes fly.

Edwards throws 10 yards or shorter 77 percent of the time. He has thrown only 21 passes beyond 10 yards, and eight of those were longer than 20 yards downfield.

Edwards is 2 of 8 when throwing longer than 20 yards, but both completions went for touchdowns -- a 32-yarder to Evans and a 43-yarder to Owens.