With the addition of T.O. much has been said about not only what T.O. can bring to the passing game in Buffalo, but also what effect he will have on Evans, Reed, Parrish and company. Mainly, what will this do to Lee Evans? Evans has been a legit #1 in Buffalo since he arrived in 2004. With sporadic QB play, Evans leads the league in big play TD catches in the last 5 seasons. He is the definition of a "big play guy." He is 28 years old, entering his 6th NFL season, has a career high of 82 catches in 2006 and caught a mere 63 balls last year. He has speed, he handles his body well, and he has strong hands. He has never been the premier WR like Andre Johnson, whom despite many losing seasons has been able to put up Pro-Bowl numbers. However, Evans possesses good route-running, ability to separate off the line of scrimmage, and ability to always have DB's thinking in the back of their heads "this guy can beat me deep all day."
Michael Lombardi wrote in his column for the National Football Post yesterday about how Amani Toomer and T.O. struggled to separate from DB's last season, which is the main reason these veteran WR's have diminished skills. I have a die-hard Cowboys fan who is a great friend of mine, who said the Cowboys were forced to slide T.O. in motion a lot to try and give him a head start on separating from DB's. Add to that that T.O. led the league in drops last year, and you really have to question about the player we are getting. Make no doubt about it, T.O.'s skills have diminished. However, his work ethic, influence on this team and fan base, leadership, and ability to teach James Hardy make the signing a no-brainer in my book. The real WR on this team is Lee Evans, as he is in his prime, has developed a rapport with QB Trent Edwards for the past 2 seasons, and is coming off signing his mega 4 year deal for ~$36 million. Lombardi had this to say in his column about T.O. last year and more importantly about how teams will play the Bills this season:
Many people feel Terrell Owens was dismissed from Dallas for his poor behavior, but just as important was his inability to consistently beat press coverage, which made him a liability at times and resulted in his termination. When teams rolled to Owens, he was not the same player, so the Cowboys had to motion to create space. Since the NFL is not the CFL, teams can only motion one player at a time. If you’re a team that has too many receivers who struggle to separate from bump, your passing game is going to struggle. In Buffalo, Owens will not face rolled coverage -- Lee Evans will. If teams don’t roll to Evans, he’ll put 100 yards on them before halftime. Trust me on that.
Why do I bring this up? Because Lee Evans will still be facing the double coverages. Teams will play that safety high on Lee's side to prevent the big play. So while many people think the addition of T.O. will be like relieving a log jam in a struggling to flow stream, I believe that the addition of T.O. only helps if he can also make big plays on the other side OR open it up for the skill players Lynch, Jackson, Parrish, Reed, etc to make plays in the underneath game. And I will be the first to say I really doubt whether T.O. can be a legit #2 across from Evans in the ultra-competitive AFC, in which Owens has NEVER played a full season in.
If T.O. cannot effectively get off the line and win 1-on-1 battles especially on 3rd down, then this offense will not be much more effective than last season. And if Trent and Turk FORCE the ball to T.O. that will end up in an even worse situation. While revamping the OL was something that had to be done, if they can be effective in the run game, and handle these 3-4 fronts, the Bills offense I don't see how it will be any better than last year. Point blank, this team HAS to up its scoring average from 21 per game of last season, to 23-24 this season, unless the defense becomes Top 10 which I don't see possible with Kelsay still on this roster.
The no-huddle, the addition of Rhodes and Shawn Nelson, the hopeful improvement of Steve Johnson, Derek Schouman, Derek Fine, and most importantly Trent Edwards is what fans, media and observers are looking at as reasons this offense can improve BESIDES the most obvious and T.O.
Prediction: If this team wants to go to the playoffs, there is no doubt who should lead this team there in the WR corps and that's Lee Evans. Maybe he will continue to get double-teamed but that will just open up the run game, and other skill players, and Trent needs to finally recognize this. If I have to hear about 8 man coverages and how they are doubling Lee over the top, I'm going to puke. Make an ADJUSTMENT, run the ball effectively, and utilize the short-underneath passing game and no-huddle to make teams get out of those coverages! T.O. should be a role player this season, and not a focal point. If he is a focal point, sure he'll get his stats (and he'll drop a ton of balls), but I guarantee we won't be going to the playoffs. The Bills want to go to the playoffs for the first time in a decade, Lee Evans is the guy that should and can lead them there.