The role of a backup quarterback is to be ready when called upon. At any moment, the starting quarterback can leave the game, for a few plays or indefinitely, and the backup has to come in and hit the ground running as the leader of the offense. Friday night against the Cleveland Browns, Trent Edwards didn't exactly start fast - but then he did.
On the first play of the third quarter, Edwards lined up under center for the Eagles and threw an ugly interception as he was getting hit by Browns linebacker James-Michael Johnson. But Johnson was called for an obvious roughing the passer penalty, giving Edwards a clean slate. The veteran took it from there, leading a 13-play drive that elapsed over eight minutes on the clock and gave the Eagles a 24-3 lead.
"Did you see the first play of that half? That was bad. I want to thank the ref for making that call," Edwards joked after the game. "It was a clear roughing the passer call I think, but yeah, we battled back, we converted and got first downs on third down, put together ... an eight minute drive. I think that gives our defense a lot of momentum going back out there I think 24-3 with eight minutes into the third quarter. That's something we were looking to do. We wanted to start fast coming into the locker room here and that's what we did."
Edwards actually completed his first nine passes against the Browns, finishing 14-of-17 for 127 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a sparkling 117.4 quarterback rating. Through three preseason games, Edwards has been sharp, often leading a mishmash offensive collection of rookies and journeymen for a 96.9 quarterback rating.
Edwards credits his ability to start fast on the way he spends his time when he's not in the game.
"I think what's been helping is I've been hanging out with (offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg) on the sideline, watching Nick (Foles), looking at pictures," he said. "A lot of those plays Marty was calling for me I feel comfortable with. I'm not getting a lot of reps in practice, which I'm completely good with, but it's a matter of being on the same page with the offensive playcaller, and he's able to call plays that I feel good about and that's why I'm able to execute quickly."
In the process, Edwards, written off as a roster candidate at the beginning of Training Camp, has made a very strong case to be included on the Eagles roster come Week 1.
"I want them to make it as hard on (general manager Howie Roseman) and I as possible, that's what I tell the players," head coach Andy Reid said following the game. "At that position, that's going to be a decision that we've got to make. Whether it's whatever three combination it happens to be, I want it to be a tough decision."
It certainly seems like Michael Vick and Nick Foles are locks to make the team. That leaves third-year Mike Kafka as Edwards' competition for the third spot. Kafka missed the second and third preseason games with a fractured left hand and his status for the final preseason game against the New York Jets is up in the air. If Kafka is unable to play, it will only mean more opportunity for Edwards.
"I think all four of them can play, that's what's comforting," said Reid. "It's going to be a tough decision. Most likely we'll keep three, that's what we're going to do, and somebody's going to get a real good quarterback. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
For his part, even though he knows his status is up in the air as roster cutdowns loom, Edwards won't allow himself to get caught up in speculation.
"One day at a time, one play at a time," Edwards. "A lot of those things are out of my control. I'm not one of those guys who's going to waste any time worrying about things that I can't control. We've got an off day tomorrow so that's all I'm worried about."
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