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Holcomb to start at QB over young, struggling Losman

Although there has been no official announcement from coach Mike Mularkey, the Buffalo Bills plan to start veteran quarterback Kelly Holcomb on Sunday as at least a temporary replacement for youngster J.P. Losman, ESPN.com has confirmed.

The decision to enact the switch, after Losman started the first four games of the year, was made Tuesday, with the quarterbacks apprised of the plan. The Bills, 1-3 and unable to generate much offensive rhythm, host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon.

Buffalo coaches feel Holcomb, a 10th-year veteran, may be better able to handle some of the defensive schemes they feel Miami will employ. Losman is said to be disappointed but also motivated at losing his starting spot.

Mularkey declined to address the quarterback situation at Wednesday's practice, saying he was "not going to talk about a starter at any position for either team." Mularkey said his reluctance to publicly designate a starter might keep the Dolphins guessing.


Receiver Eric Moulds, however, acknowledged Thursday that Holcomb was indeed getting the start Sunday.

Moulds backed the decision, crediting Mularkey for attempting to
provide a spark to a sputtering offense that has managed 29 points
-- two touchdowns and five field goals -- in the last 14 quarters.

"It takes a good coach to say, 'I'm going to sit the starting
quarterback down and be able to go with somebody else and try to
get a spark from Kelly,'" Moulds said. "A lot of coaches wouldn't
have done it so we respect him and we're going to back him 100
percent."

While the Buffalo attack ranks ninth in the NFL in rushing, it is 31st in both total offense and passing offense, and the Bills have scored just three offensive touchdowns. After throwing for 170 yards in the season opening victory over the Houston Texans, Losman has averaged only 87.7 passing yards in three subsequent losses and has thrown for just 75 yards each of the past two weeks.

The team's first-round choice in the '04 draft, Losman has been sacked nine times during the Bills' three-game losing skid. For the season, Losman has completed 45 of 94 passes for 433 yards, with one touchdown pass and two interceptions, and a passer efficiency mark of 55.9. In an effort to protect Losman, and have him "manage" the game, the team may have been too conservative so far with their quarterback.

Mularkey allowed that Losman, still considered a solid prospect by the Bills and viewed as a quarterback who can make plays with his arm and his legs, seems to be pressing and that his lack of experience has been a factor.

"It's not a bad thing," said Mularkey, "that he wants to be good for the team. But it's not good as a player or a coach to press too hard. In the end, it could be a negative."

The Buffalo quarterback switch is the third non-injury change in the league this week. The San Francisco 49ers will replace Tim Rattay with top overall draft pick Alex Smith, and Vinny Testaverde will supplant Brooks Bollinger as the New York Jets starter in the teams' weekend games.

Holcomb, 32, was signed by the Bills in the offseason as a free agent and, ostensibly, as an insurance policy in the event Losman faltered. In stints with Indianapolis (1996-2000) and Cleveland (2001-2004), Holcomb has appeared in 26 games and started 13 of them. He has completed 373 of 589 passes for 3,919 yards, with 27 touchdown passes and 29 interceptions, and a 77.3 quarterback rating.

The former Middle Tennessee State star has played in two games this season.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.