Rookie QB Trent Edwards gets chance to spark Bills offense in 1st start

Updated: September 27, 2007, 8:58 AM ET
Associated Press

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Trent Edwards got veteran tight end Robert Royal's attention -- and respect -- the minute the rookie Buffalo Bills quarterback stepped into the huddle during practice Wednesday.

"First thing he said was, `Fellas, let's go! No balls hitting the ground in 7-on-7 today," Royal said. "Coming from him, it kind of threw me off, like `Whoa, hold up. That's what I need to hear."

The pep talk worked, because Royal can't remember a pass falling incomplete during the session, an encouraging beginning for Edwards, who prepares to take over for injured starter J.P. Losman when the Bills (0-3) host the New York Jets (1-2) on Sunday.

"It just shows you that he's comfortable. And it shows the guys that he's ready to play," Royal added. "I could never tell he was a rookie."

A third-round draft pick out of Stanford, Edwards suddenly finds himself in the hot seat with Losman expected to miss up to two weeks after spraining his knee in the first series of a 38-7 loss at New England last weekend.

Besides preparing to make his first career start less than a month into his first NFL season, Edwards takes over what's been a sputtering offense on a Bills team reeling from injuries and in desperate need for something to go right.

"Yeah, I think it's a little of everything, anxious, nervous, excited," Edwards said. "There's a lot of emotions that I haven't felt for a long time, so I need to handle those with some maturity and be able to perform on Sunday."

He's also eager to build off what was a wildly inconsistent debut after he took over for Losman at the start of the Bills' second possession against the Patriots.

Despite facing one of the NFL's most complex defenses, Edwards showed poise and efficiency in engineering an 80-yard scoring drive -- capped by Marshawn Lynch's 8-yard run -- on his first possession.

The rest of the game didn't go so well as Edwards, looking much like a rookie, and the Bills combined to produce 104 yards and six first downs on their final 10 possessions.

Edwards, who finished 10-of-20 for 97 yards passing and an interception, was unhappy with his performance.

"I don't take mulligans in golf," he said, refusing to use his lack of experience as an excuse. "You have to be able to go in there and be able to perform, whether it's the first play of the game or the last play. ... That's what makes you a good quarterback."

Edwards has all the makings of developing into a solid player despite being the sixth quarterback selected in the draft. The major knocks against him were that he was injury-prone -- Edwards missed the final month of last season with a broken ankle -- and that he played for a Cardinal program that won only 14 games during his four years.

The Bills, however, thought enough of Edwards to draft him on the first day, even though they had more important needs to fill. And Bill Walsh, the Hall of Fame coach who died in August, was such a big believer in Edwards that he called Bills general manager and fellow Hall of Famer Marv Levy shortly after the draft to tout Edwards' ability.

"That's all very flattering," Edwards said. "I want to go out there and prove that their opinions of me were correct."

Edwards has proven much so far. He beat out veteran Craig Nall to win the backup spot after an impressive preseason in which he went 46-of-61 for 332 yards passing and a touchdown in four appearances.

A prototypical pocket passer, Edwards' strengths are his quick release and accuracy.

Coach Dick Jauron has confidence in Edwards, but made sure to temper his expectations.

"I believe he'll perform and certainly I believe he'll perform over time," Jauron said. "But right now, he's awfully young in this league."

Edwards' expectations are much higher.

"I don't have 'overwhelmed' in my vocabulary," Edwards said. "I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help this team win."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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