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OWINGS MILLS — Trent Edwards arrived in the NFL with glowing testimonials from the late, great Bill Walsh.
Then, the rookie delivered such a promising starting debut that venerable Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson was practically gushing in the locker room in the wake of how Edwards quarterbacked his team to its lone victory of the season.
Now, Edwards gets the football for his third consecutive start for the Bills (1-4) on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens (4-2). And the heat is about to be cranked up as the raw, promising former Stanford star faces off against the NFL’s fourth-ranked defense.
"You never know, sometimes a rookie surprises you," Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "Sometimes, they come out and they have a pretty good game. So, we’ve got to take him just like any other quarterback.
"We’ve got to look past the fact that he’s a rookie. We definitely want to try to get at him and just try to rattle him a little bit. It’s all business."
Edwards won his first start in a 17-14 victory over the New York Jets where he completed 22 of 28 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown, completing 78.5 percent of his throws to set a Bills rookie record and rank eighth in franchise history for single-game completion percentage.
â€œIt’s exciting,â€ Edwards told Buffalo reporters â€œIt’s something you work for your entire life. Growing up, you watch guys taking the field every Sunday, the starters, and you always want to be one of those guys."
However, Edwards hasn’t been nearly as productive since the Jets game.
For the season, he has completed 55 of 79 passes for 507 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. He struggled during a loss to the Dallas Cowboys, only managing to produce one field goal despite four drives inside the Cowboys’ 40-yard line.
Still, Ravens coach Brian Billick sees a lot of potential in the 6-foot-4, 231-pound Los Gatos, Calif., native. Edwards was at the Ravens’ training complex in April for an official visit prior to the draft, but Baltimore passed on selecting him and Buffalo general manager Marv Levy picked him up in the third round.
"Very impressive, smart kid, very strong arm and is more athletic than you would think in terms of the numbers," Billick said of Edwards, who went 0-7 at Stanford last year during an injury-riddled senior season. "Can get himself out of trouble, has a nice presence about him. Very impressive young man to meet when he was here."
The Ravens defense, though, traditionally turns a lot of impressive young men into confused, unproductive and aching quarterbacks.
Edwards hasn’t played against anyone like Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed, who’s tied for the NFL lead with four interceptions.
"He’s a decent quarterback, obviously," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "He was well thought of when he came out. He’s got a big arm, it looks like. He’s whoever. Whoever shows up, we’ll be ready to play."
Bills coach Dick Jauron has qualified that he’s committed to Edwards as the starter over veteran J.P. Losman for this week alone, which leaves open the possibility of a full-blown quarterback controversy. Losman has already been griping, calling it an awkward situation. Star wide receiver Lee Evans didn’t exactly embrace the move.
"Do I have a choice?" Evans said. "If that’s the decision they make, that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to rally behind Trent and go win some games."
Edwards has completed 69.6 percent of his throws and been sacked six times for a 75.2 quarterback rating.
The Ravens will try to disrupt the big pocket passerâ€™s timing and exploit his inexperience. However, they’re shorthanded in the secondary with Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister doubtful due to a knee injury.
That’s a major reason why they’re not taking Edwards lightly.
Plus, Baltimore hasn’t excelled against other young quarterbacks this season, including the Jets’ Kellen Clemens and the Cleveland Browns’ Derek Anderson.
"I saw him against Dallas and he looked pretty good," said cornerback Samari Rolle, who returns to the starting lineup after operating in nickel packages Sunday as he returned from an undisclosed illness. "They should’ve won the game. You can’t just say he’s a rookie, because that doesn’t matter."
NOTE: The Ravens signed wide receiver Romby Bryant (Tulsa) and nose guard J’Vonne Parker (Rutgers) to the practice squad as they cut offensive tackle Brandon Torrey (Howard) and defensive tackle Anthony Bryant (Alabama) was signed to the Miami Dolphins’ active roster.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.