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Finding a Complement for Lee Evans

Does Evans Need More WR Help?

Despite the steady progress that J.P. Losman showed in his first full season as the Bills' starting quarterback, it was fairly obvious that if he is going to continue that progress, the talent around him needed an upgrade. Buffalo's only consistent receiving threat was third-year man Lee Evans, whose solid stats should have landed him in the Pro Bowl.

Evans last season comprised far too much of Buffalo's receiving production. His 82 receptions were nearly 31% of Losman's completions. His 1,292 yards were over 43% of Losman's yardage total. Eight of Losman's 19 touchdowns went to Evans. Many experts (and fans, for that matter) feel that if Evans is going to meet or exceed those promising numbers in 2007, the Bills need to find players who can take double coverage away from the speedster.

WR Depth is Versatile
While there does not appear to be a legitimate #2 threat to Evans, there is undoubtedly a wide array of skills and talent behind him. Peerless Price didn't have great numbers (49 receptions, 402 yards, 3 TD), but he did come up with some clutch catches during the season - specifically his game-winning grab at Houston. Josh Reed developed a nice rapport with Losman and became a primary option on third down. He finished with 34 grabs for 410 yards and two scores. Roscoe Parrish was relatively inconsistent during the year, but his big plays combined with his continued growth could make him a much larger part of the offense next year. Parrish finished second on the team with a 13.9 yards-per-catch average (behind Evans).

Each of these three players has distinct roles in Buffalo's offense. Most weeks, one of these three would step up and have a solid game - which played a big role in Evans' solid season. So while neither of these three can be considered a legitimate #2, they certainly are important to Losman and the offense.

Upgrade the "Secondary" Skill Positions
Leading up to the draft, it was popular opinion that the Bills should spend a draft pick on a tall, meaty wide receiver with skills that Evans may not necessarily possess (such as possession receiving and the ability to cross the middle of the field). That obviously didn't happen. Not because the Bills are cheap, and not because the players most often mentioned weren't worthy. It just didn't need to happen. There are better ways to give Losman more options, and the Bills found them.

Let's start at tight end. By season's end, Losman was looking for Robert Royal in the red zone just as much as Evans. The Bills love to operate out of two tight-end sets - Brad Cieslak saw a lot of time in this role. But as steady as these players are, the team does not have a true receiving threat at the position. The coaching staff seems to be banking on the improvements made along the offensive line to increase tight end production. This is especially true of Robert Royal, who often times was stuck blocking next to rookie Terrance Pennington on the right side of the line. If the line gels, we'll be able to get Royal out in to pass-catching routes far more often.

Instead of worrying about finding a "receiving" tight end, the Bills have instead installed the "H-Back" position into the offense. This will allow tight ends such as Cieslak and rookie Derek Schouman to line up in the backfield and make some plays from that role. It's a different way to utilize tight ends, but it should increase the receiving production of all of our tight ends.

Running back is important too. Many good teams are able to use their running backs as receivers out of the backfield. Anthony Thomas was used in this role last year, as he finished sixth on the team with 22 receptions. Although he played well, this is not an ideal role for the A-Train. Hence the move to bring in rookie Marshawn Lynch, an excellent receiver out of the backfield who will likely be used very often on receiving routes. With the Bills looking at a three-headed backfield of Lynch, A-Train and another rookie, Dwayne Wright, I expect to see Lynch used in a similar fashion as Reggie Bush in New Orleans. (Note: I am certainly not comparing Marshawn Lynch to Reggie Bush. That would be asenine. Bush is in a league of his own; however, I think Lynch has some of the same skills that Fairchild will utilize - his hands, route-running and explosive playmaking.)

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Having four skilled wide receivers, versatile tight end/halfback options in Royal, Cieslak and Schouman and a stable of versatile backs with running and receiving skills will go much further toward helping Losman than breaking the bank for a "complement" to Evans. A second receiving option would be nice, but the Bills don't need to break the bank for one when they have so many other positions of need.