Bills WR Evans backs QB shuffle, calling it better to happen now than later

No fan of in-season quarterback shuffles, Bills receiver Lee Evans wasn't in a position to dispute the latest decision to go with Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starter.

Evans backed the switch Wednesday by saying something had to give on an offense that's shown little spark under Trent Edwards in opening the season with two losses. The seventh-year receiver then added he believes Fitzpatrick has a better feel for the game.

"It's a little bit surprising, but I think the overall feeling was we weren't playing up to the potential of being as good as we can be," Evans said.

When asked to compare the two quarterbacks, Evans credited Fitzpatrick in noting he's unafraid of throwing passes into coverage and capable of manufacturing plays on the fly.

"He just feels the game and reacts off instinct. Fitz just has that different demeanor about him than Trent does," Evans said. "And with that, you have a chance."

Evans' comments came as Bills players returned to practice for the first time since coach Chan Gailey announced the quarterback change Monday. The move came a day after a 34-7 loss at Green Bay in which the offense managed just 186 yards — 20 more than it had in a 15-10 loss to Miami a week earlier — and Edwards threw two interceptions and was sacked four times.

Though Gailey said not all the blame should be placed on Edwards, he made the switch in a bid to kick-start an offense as Buffalo prepares to play at AFC East rival New England this weekend.

Evans didn't blame Edwards, but also didn't go out of his way to say anything to support the fourth-year player. And this came after a game in which Evans was thrown to only once — leading to a pass interference penalty — and held without a catch for only the third time in his career.

Evans said there was nothing unusual or complex about how the Packers defended him.

This marks the fourth time in Evans' seven years in Buffalo the Bills have changed starters due to performance, and the second straight season Edwards has lost his job to Fitzpatrick.

As difficult as it is to adjust to a new quarterback on the fly, Evans noted the offense is familiar with Fitzpatrick, who went 5-4 in nine games he had a majority of playing time last season. And then there's the timing of the move.

"I guess it's better early than late," Evans said. "We still have a chance to do a lot of good things."

There's a lot to improve for an attack that's managed only 352 yards and scored 17 points in two games. Edwards went a combined 29 of 52 for 241 yards with a touchdown, two interceptions and was sacked seven times in showing no signs of the confidence and zip he had displayed in winning the starting job in the preseason.

Fitzpatrick, a sixth-year player, might not be as strong-armed as Edwards, but he's has proven to be more resourceful in having a hand in five of Buffalo's six wins last season.

Fitzpatrick's numbers were not much better than Edwards last year. He had a lower completion percentage (55.9 to Edwards' 60.1), lower passer rating (69.7 to 73.8) and threw 10 interceptions, three more than Edwards.

What separated Fitzpatrick was his ability to get the ball to his main receivers — Evans and Terrell Owens — and make deep throws. The Bills completed three passes of 50 yards or longer last season, all of them by Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick said he's not going to force throws to Evans if he's covered, but noted the importance of getting the team's top receiver involved.

"Lee's a big part of our team," Fitzpatrick said. "He's a guy we want to get the ball, too. But it has to be the right situation."

Fitzpatrick shrugged off the pressure, when reminded he'll start against the Patriots, a team that's defeated the Bills in 18 of the past 19 meetings, including 13 straight.

"Just another football game," he said. "If we have to run the ball on every snap, if we have to throw it deep, whatever it takes."

Edwards was surprised by his sudden demotion, but accepted it.

"That's the decision that's made, and I've got to respect that," Edwards said. "I'm not going to hang my head. I'm obviously frustrated and disappointed, but it's a long season. Things can change. And I'll still be ready to go."

Notes: LG Andy Levitre was held out of practice for precautionary reasons after he hurt his neck against Green Bay. Gailey said Levitre is expected to practice Thursday. ... LB Paul Posluszny (knee) has already been ruled out. ... Of the four times Bills quarterbacks threw for more than 200 yards last season, Fitzpatrick did it three times, including a season-high 297 in an 18-15 loss to Jacksonville.