Bills' No-Huddle Depends On The Right Mix

Ken FoxContributor IMay 29, 2009

DENVER - DECEMBER 21:  Offensive tackle Kirk Chambers #73 of the Buffalo Bills blocks the rush of Ebenezer Ekuban #91 of the Denver Broncos as he protects quarterback Trent Edwards #5 at Invesco Field at Mile High on December 21, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The Bills defeated the Broncos 30-23.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – The workout was over and Buffalo Bills quarterback Trent Edwards surely hadn’t had his best day.


The Bills had just run through 11-on-11 drills while defensive coordinator Perry Fewell was installing blitz packages for the defense–though he didn’t bother telling the offense.


The results showed. It was a long day for Edwards, whose passes found the Bills Field house turf more often than not.


Yet, there he was, along with wide receivers Lee Evans and Terrell Owens, 20 minutes or so after the 90-minute OTA session ended Edwards was still working with his receiving tandem long after most of the other Bills players left the practice field.


Chemistry isn’t something just found in the laboratory. It’s paramount on the football field.


Successful teams have it. The Bills are looking for it, especially when those two words linked to past Buffalo football lore, “No Huddle” have been bantered-about so prominently during this latest session of OTAs.


It’s likely the Bills offense will be a lot more wide open this year–be it the No-Huddle or some a variation of a spread or four-wide.


That’s a departure from last year. The 2008 Bills were balanced–more-or-less – on offense, running 48 percent of the time and passing 52 percent.


But be it running or passing the ball, they were mediocre at best - ranking 23rd in the NFL in points-per-game (21.0), 25th in yards-per-game (305.1) and 22nd in passing yards-per-game (190.0).


The rushing tandem of Marshawn Lynch (1,036 yards) and Fred Jackson (571 yards) led a rushing attack which was 14th in the league with an average of 4.2 yards per-carry and 115 yards-per-game.


After spending the off-season acquiring a veteran, All-Pro receiver, the Bills could have one of the deepest receiving corps in the National Football League. Evans, Owens, Josh Reed, Roscoe Parrish and Steve Johnson comprise the top-five while last year’s second-round pick James Hardy is recovering from off-season knee surgery.  


The Bills used their fourth pick in this year’s draft to select Southern Miss tight end Shawn Nelson. At 6-4, 240 pounds, Nelson isn’t much of a blocker but was a four year starter in college with 157 receptions for 2,054 yards and 16 touchdowns.


They have offensive coordinator Turk Schonert, himself a disciple of the original No-Huddle guru Sam Wyche.  


They also have an intelligent quarterback in Edwards (Stanford) as well as Geoff Hangartner, who has the reputation as one of the brightest young centers in football, was also signed in the off-season as well.


"With some of the things that we were doing, we’re letting Trent have a little more freedom in the offense to, if he sees something that he likes, getting the guy in a position to make a play,” Evans said. “He’ll have that type of freedom, which is good for us but puts the onus on us to be on the same page with him as well.”


Of course, there aren’t many in Bills-land who will come out and say the words, “No Huddle.” It’s almost sacrilege.


It offers up images of the glory days of Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, and tight end Keith McKellar – for whom the famous “K-Gun” offense was named – at least that’s how the legend goes.


There are practical reasons, of course, for the Bills to go in that direction. Not only do they carry a vast array of receivers but also a collection of versatile running backs - Lynch, Jackson and newcomer Dominic Rhodes are each accomplished pass catchers and give Edwards options out of the backfield.


But moreover, the Bills have major questions over their offensive line. Two rookies, Eric Moore and Andy Levitre, will start at left and right guard. Langston Walker replaces All-Pro Jason Peters protecting Edwards’ blind side at left tackle.


An effective no-huddle attack could get the ball out of Edwards’ hands quicker, while causing defenses to wear down faster and nullify opponents simply by fighting fatigue and causing mismatches.


And it’s in recognizing those mismatches where Edwards, though still regarded as a work in progress, can take advantage of weapons like Owens and Evans.


Often a two-minute or a no-huddle offense usually contains a limited number of plays. So much relies on recognition of opposing defenses by both the quarterback and receivers.  They must be on the same page, and so work in the early season is critical to regular season success.


“Obviously I have to get used to the way he throws the ball and he has to get used to my body language as far as going in and out of cuts,” Owens said.  “It’s just trying to get a sense of timing and chemistry.”


“He’s doing a good job with telling me he wants a ball thrown a certain way and I feel like I’m comfortable telling him I want routes run a certain way,” Edwards said.


“I feel like that level is comes with his experience and that level is something I need to get to. It’s something I want to get to with him, an unspoken bond that something doesn’t need to be said, but we can see it before it actually happens.”


It’s an experiment in chemistry that could go a long way in determining how the season will go for the Bills.