“He’s got 951 catches in the National Football League, that’s a lot of catches,” said head coach Dick Jauron. “He has 139 touchdowns, that’s a lot of points on the board. In the last three years alone in Dallas he scored 38 touchdowns.”
With 951 receptions Owens has just as many in his career as Bills all-time leading receiver Andre Reed. His 139 touchdowns are second only to Jerry Rice (197) in NFL history. That touchdown total alone gives Owens a career average of better than 10 and a half per season (10.6).
So can the dynamic receiver deliver a 10-touchdown season or better for Buffalo in 2009?
If you go by his figures in his first seasons in Philadelphia and Dallas the answer is a resounding yes.
In 2003 the Philadelphia Eagles were a quality team. Head coach Andy Reid led them to a 12-4 mark and they clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs that season. The problem was in the NFC Championship game their lack of punch in the passing game was evident in losing to Carolina 14-3.
James Thrash and Todd Pinkston were Donovan McNabb’s primary targets that season with Thrash leading the team in catches (49) and Pinkston leading the team in receiving yards (575). The two combined for three touchdown receptions.
Enter Owens via a three-team trade agreement in 2004. Philadelphia roared out of the gate with seven wins to start the season and 13 wins in their first 14 games. All Owens did was average a touchdown a game before a severe ankle injury and cracked fibula forced him from the lineup in Week 15.
Owens didn’t return to action for the Eagles until Super Bowl XXXIX when he posted nine catches for 122 yards in a loss to the Patriots.
Philadelphia’s offense improved from 18th (2003) to ninth (2004), their passing game improved from 20th to seventh. Most significant was the jump in scoring, as the passing touchdown total for the Eagles from 2003 to 2004 went from 17 to 32 nearly doubling the team’s scoring output through the air.
Owens’ was responsible for 1,200 yards receiving in just 14 games and 14 touchdowns.
The situation was much the same in Dallas just two years later. In 2005 the Cowboys had a pretty potent offense ranking a respectable 13th in the league, but their passing game was middle of the pack (15th) and they stood just 15th in scoring averaging just over 20 points per game (20.3).
Enter Owens, signed as a free agent in the following offseason. Owens had 85 catches for 1,180 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Cowboys that first season.
Dallas’ total offense improved from 13th to 5th. Their passing game went from middle of the pack to top five. And once again the biggest jump came in the scoring column. The Cowboys scored 100 more points in 2006 than they had the year before and Owens was responsible for 78 of them as he led the league in touchdown catches that year.
Adding those first seasons in Philadelphia and Dallas together and averaging the increase in passing touchdowns and scoring, Owens’ addition accounted for a 14 percent increase in scoring and a 30 percent increase in passing touchdowns. Owens also averaged 13.5 touchdowns per season over those two years.
Applying those average team increases to Buffalo’s statistics from 2008, Owens could increase the Bills scoring by almost 50 points. While that increase doesn’t sound overwhelming, consider that in 2008 it would have improved Buffalo’s points per game ranking from 23rd to 12th.
As for passing touchdowns Buffalo would have improved their pass ranking in 2008 from 26th to 19th with Owens on board, applying those averages. Again it doesn’t sound like a big jump, until you consider that Buffalo would rank the same as the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers in that category, and Pittsburgh had the same number of rushing touchdowns as Buffalo last season (16).
Averaging out Owens’ two ultra-productive first seasons with the Eagles and Cowboys, Owens numbers look like this.
Rec. Yards Avg. TDs 25 YAC
86.5 1,264 14.6 13.5 12 439
In no way does it mean such numbers will become a reality in Buffalo in 2009, but those are two of his three best seasons over the last six years. As Owens himself stated he’ll perform no matter what NFL team colors he is wearing.
“It doesn’t matter what uniform I’m in,” Owens said. “Anytime you step on a football field you want to win. I don’t think there is any difference with this team. Obviously with me, it’s an added weapon to what they already have, and what they had last year. So we’re looking to go full force with what we’ve got.”