All through the offseason Buffalo's offensive staff maintained that if rookie quarterback Trent Edwards could keep up with the pace of installation in the training camp setting he had a legitimate chance to land the number two quarterback job behind J.P. Losman.
On Thursday night Edwards took a convincing step closer to landing that job as he went 18-24 passing for 182 yards. Not counting his three kneel downs at the end of the game, Edwards put points on the board on four of the five series he had in the game.
His night started with a two-minute drill at the end of the first half. With 1:41 on the clock Edwards calmly went 5-6 for 40 yards and ran for an eight-yard scramble to get Buffalo in range for a 45-yard Rian Lindell field goal before the half expired.
"It was just a matter of being in those game-like situations," said Edwards of appearing comfortable in the two minute drill. "Knowing that I've run those plays before in practice and in the previous game, it's huge for my confidence level and I know calling the plays and going through my reads I've felt a lot more comfortable out there and hopefully it looked that way."
Edwards looks much further along than your typical rookie quarterback. He finished the preseason 46-61 passing (75%) for 432 yards and a touchdown which was good for a passer rating just a shade under 100 (99.9).
Head coach Dick Jauron was surprised that Edwards' preseason completion percentage was that high.
"Yeah I guess it is surprising for anybody, particularly a rookie," said Jauron of Edwards' completion percentage. "That's high. That's really good. He was very accurate and once again you've seen him out there practicing. He is accurate with the ball, he does get it out quick and he generally knows where he's going with it."
Buffalo's coaching staff has made every effort to get Edwards up to speed on the nuances of the pro game through the spring and summer, and played the rookie extensively throughout the offseason in both the practice and preseason game setting.
Offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild has even come out of the booth to be on the sidelines during the preseason contests to help coach Edwards through the results of the plays he's experiencing out on the field.
"It's been nice having coach Fairchild on the sidelines talking me through those plays," said Edwards.
Edwards' four scoring drives were all long sustained possessions covering 10, 11, 13 and 15 plays, something that has been difficult for the number one offense to muster on a consistent basis.
And consistency is the quality in Edwards that Jauron appears to like the most.
"You like the way he handles the huddle, gets in and out of the huddle," said Jauron. "He handles the offense, makes the adjustments at the line. We worked some no huddle as you saw. He made some adjustments for us on the ball. Just his continued improvement is really encouraging to us."
The Bills went to the no huddle attack to start the third quarter against Detroit. The 11-play 72-yard drive resulted in Buffalo's only touchdown of the game, a five-yard run by Fred Jackson.
"It's the first drill in every practice we have," said Edwards. "I have some familiarity running it with the second group and it's something we wanted to put on tape. And it's something that coach Fairchild likes to run. It just helps with pace of play and keeps the offense moving, keeps the offensive linemen moving and doesn't allow the defense to substitute in there so it's something we were able to do and we moved the ball."
Buffalo's head coach stated all along it was necessary to give Edwards more work since he had less experience than Craig Nall at the NFL level. However, it also stands to reason that the staff saw Edwards' vast potential and wanted to tap into it as quickly as possible so he would be prepared to step in at quarterback this season in the event that J.P. Losman went down with an injury.
And Edwards didn't disappoint.
"He's performed so well," said Jauron. "He just gets a little better all the time. He was pretty good to start with. When we drafted him we had a better grade on him than the third round. We were so happy to get him there. He just keeps looking good."
But Edwards remains modest fully aware that he's still a rookie and refuses to even think about whether he'll be the team's number two quarterback.
"That's not up to me," he said. "I'm in a great situation right now learning behind Craig and J.P. and that's just the position I'm in right now."
But by the looks of it that position is soon to change a bit.