Every summer leading up to training camp Buffalobills.com asks 25 of the most pressing questions facing the team as they make their final preparations for the upcoming regular season. With a new regime and practices at St. John Fisher fast approaching, here is the latest installment as we closely examine some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 28th and Sept. 12th
Bills wide receiver Lee Evans has been productive from the time he was a first-round rookie in 2004, but the last minute offensive changes in 2009 on Buffalo's offensive line and at offensive coordinator along with the switches at quarterback were too much for the team's number one receiver to overcome.
Last season though Evans was able to post the second best single-season touchdown total of his career with seven, his receptions and receiving yards in 2009 were both career lows. The Bills will need significantly more production from Evans in 2010 if they are to go anywhere this season.
But with receiver being a position that's so dependent upon the other working parts of an offense, can Evans' numbers effectively rebound this fall?
For the first time since Mike Mularkey was Buffalo's head coach, there's a sideline boss with a proven offensive background. Chan Gailey's offenses have a history of piling up yards and consistently producing points, even without a premier proven talent at quarterback.
Based on what Evans has witnessed and executed through the spring practices he believes Gailey's offensive system and astute play calling acumen will help him succeed on the field.
"I've pretty much got a good grasp of the offense, understanding it, understanding what he's trying to get accomplished," said Evans. "I feel confident in it."
Gailey is known for building strong rushing attacks, which force opponents to respect the run, and that usually leads to more opportunities to gain yards through the air. Evans, who has seen his share of different offenses in his six seasons in Buffalo feels Gailey could be a difference maker.
"For one he's done it before and number two I feel like his way of coaching and running this offense can work," said Evans.
The problem in past years for the Bills aerial attack is there has been little for opposing defenses to be concerned about other than Evans. As a result Evans would often face a myriad of double teams each week forcing Buffalo's quarterbacks to go elsewhere with the ball.
Buffalo tried to combat that last season with the addition of Terrell Owens, but the injuries and last minute changes to the offensive line compromised the team's protection schemes often leaving Buffalo's quarterbacks with little time to survey the field on passing downs.
Looking at the supporting cast for Evans it's largely unproven, though it's believed that Gailey and the offensive staff have a larger role in store for Roscoe Parrish out of the slot position. But with the emerging Shawn Nelson at tight end and a trio of backs that are all very capable receivers there will be other playmakers that opposing defenses will need to be mindful of.
"I really liked what C.J. (Spiller) and Marshawn (Lynch) and Fred (Jackson) did out of the backfield," said Trent Edwards of his teammates' receiving skills. "I know Chan likes to get those guys the ball out of our passing game and the tight ends are going to be big for us too. So those positions in addition to receiver need to play a big role for us this year."
It's logical to assume that Evans will continue to receive the extra attention from opponents come the regular season until Buffalo's other passing threats convince them to change their approach. But with Gailey's keen ability to adjust on the fly and get his playmakers the ball it's not unreasonable to think that Evans can have numbers closer to his career averages of 57 receptions and 900 yards.
In the end Evans isn't overly concerned about his own production. He definitely wants to contribute, but he also wants to win a lot more than he has in the past.
"The bottom line is there's a real fine line between winning and losing," Evans said. "We've been on the brink of wins and losses in the past. Hopefully his style of coaching and the way he runs things will help us get over the hump. We're right there, we've just got to get over that little bitty hump and we can take the next step."