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17: How much will Owens help Evans?

If you took the time to exclusively watch Lee Evans as he ran his routes play after play and series after series last season you saw it time and time again. Double coverage, bracket coverage, a safety rolled over the top. Over and over Lee Evans was double teamed as the only major deep threat in Buffalo's receiving corps, and more often than not it neutralized one of the Bills only quick strike weapons.

But now with Terrell Owens on board and set to be lined up opposite Evans, having an answer for number 83 suddenly is not so easy.

"There's no doubt the dynamics of our offense have now changed with Terrell on the other side of Lee," said offensive coordinator Turk Schonert. "We have to see how teams are going to play us. Last year especially the second half of the season, Lee was doubled. They take away our big threat and everybody kind of copied it and did the same thing the second half."

Now with Owens, opponents can't just double Evans and play everyone else straight up. And that's what has Evans excited about the upcoming season. He knows he won't be seeing double teams as frequently as he has in the past.

"I think it will certainly drop," Evans said. "I was double-covered a lot last year. I think that it will drop. It's hard to say by how much. I think teams will just try to schematically do different things that take people away at certain times, but it will be on the quarterback to make the right read on what the defense is trying to do, and see who's open and make the play. We'll see. I think it will be certainly a lot of fun going into it, and as we go through the season, it's not going to be easy. It's going to be a lot of work, but the potential is there."

Evans numbers have suffered much like that of the Bills offensive rankings overall the past two seasons. Following a breakout year in 2006 (82 catches, 1,292 yards, 8 TDs), Evans' numbers came back down to earth as his receptions and yardage fell by a third in 2007.

He picked it back up last season eclipsing the 1,000-yard plateau for the second time in his career, but his scoring production was the lowest it had been in his career with just three touchdowns. Dictating play to the opponent was clearly more difficult for Buffalo's offense in 2008.

But now with Owens in the fold the opportunities for Evans to make things happen could increase dramatically.

When Owens joined the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004, running back Brian Westbrook was the leading returning receiver on the team with 37 receptions the year before for 332 yards.

When the 2004 season concluded Owens was the leading receiver with 77 receptions, 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns. Westbrook was again second, but had almost twice the number of catches with 73 and better than twice the number of yards with 703. He also had two more receiving touchdowns from the year before.

With Owens on the field opposing defenses had to respect his big play ability and could no longer put eight men in the box all the time to stop Westbrook. As a result Westbrook had a lot more open space with which to work in the flats and underneath and wound up with far greater production in the receiving game. In fact 2004 is still Westbrook's most productive scoring season as a receiver (6 TDs).

Some observers think Evans' production could be adversely affected by Owens' presence feeling he'll be taking opportunities away from Evans with both of them being receivers. But if you look at the effect Owens had on Terry Glenn upon arriving in Dallas in 2006, you'll see little change.

In 2005, Glenn led the Cowboys in receiving yards (1,136) and touchdowns (7). He stood third in receptions (62). At the end of 2006 with Owens on the roster, Glenn was second in yards but still rolled up over 1,000 (1,047) and had more receptions (70) than he did the season before. His scoring output was almost the same as well with Glenn scoring six times.  

Evans' 2009 season is more likely to run along the lines of what Glenn was able to do opposite Owens in Dallas in terms of catches and yardage, but his scoring is likely to increase.

Trent Edwards however, takes it a step further. He thinks there's the potential for the Evans-Owens tandem to perhaps be among the elite receiver tandems in football, likening Buffalo's top two wideouts to that of the Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

"That's why Arizona was so effective," said Edwards. "They have two great receivers that you have to be concerned with the entire game. Once one gets open and they throw him the ball and they try to take him away and then you throw to the other guy and he's going to be open too. It's kind of a cat and mouse game and it's tough for a defense to have to prepare for two receivers and not just one. It's going to create a lot of headaches for defensive coordinators."

Fitzgerald and Boldin combined for 185 catches, 2,469 yards and 23 touchdowns en route to the NFC title last season. Fitzgerald had just seven more receptions and only one more touchdown catch than Boldin, though he did have almost 400 more receiving yards.

And when one considers the fact that Buffalo's running game is far superior to what they had in Arizona last season, the possibilities are intriguing.

"I think on the field, (Owens) is going to create and need a lot of attention from the defense and that's going to take a lot of pressure off of Lee, a lot of pressure off of our backs and tight ends," said Edwards. "They're going to try and stop Marshawn (Lynch) in the run game and they're going to try and stop Terrell and Lee on the outside and you can't really do both. It's exciting to know we have those weapons on our offense."

Opponents may try to double both Evans and Owens at times with cover two, but that will open up bigger lanes in the run game for the Bills. Ultimately, Buffalo's opponents have a lot more to be concerned about than just Evans. And that should translate into more chances for Evans to do damage.

"I think when you look at it like that depending on what defenses want to do, we have an asset on both sides and in the running game as well, and with Josh (Reed) in the middle and Roscoe (Parrish)," said Evans. "It's just really exciting to see how it all pans out. Going into this season it really gives you a boost to see what could be if we make it work. It'll give us a lot more versatility and I think that's the most exciting part about it."

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