Skip to main content

24: What will be the offensive pecking order?

In recent years ranking the playmakers on Buffalo's offense was a fairly routine task. Marshawn Lynch, Lee Evans and Josh Reed were the primary weapons utilized by quarterback Trent Edwards most often. But with the free agent addition of Terrell Owens and the strong possibility of an expanded role for Fred Jackson, how the touches are divided has become a little more challenging to figure.

In 2008, the unquestioned featured playmaker was Lynch. With 297 touches Lynch led the team in rushing, total offensive yards and was third in receptions. He also led the team in scoring among non-kickers with nine total touchdowns. And that's not even counting the other times he was targeted in the passing game, but the play did not result in a completion.

Fred Jackson, the next closest pursuer, had 167 touches last season as he had just 10 fewer receptions than Lynch. Jackson also tied for second in scoring with Trent Edwards and Lee Evans with three touchdowns. Jackson was helped by the absence of Lynch in the second half of the Denver game due to injury as well as the season finale.

Evans had just 64 touches, but was far and away the most effective big play performer averaging better than 16 yards a catch including an 87-yard touchdown against Arizona in Week 5 last season.

And Josh Reed finished second in receptions and likely would have challenged Evans for the team lead in that category had he not missed three games last season.

Affecting this prior pecking order the most is obviously Owens. A dynamic weapon with game breaking ability and 139 touchdowns on his resume, Owens is a player that needs to get the ball.

But how much? How often?

His first season in Philadelphia Owens stood third in offensive touches with 80. Running backs Brian Westbrook (250) and Dorsey Levens (103) saw the ball more as is usually the case. Owens however, was the unquestioned number one option in the passing game as his receiving yardage almost doubled that of his Eagles teammate that ranked second (Westbrook, 703 receiving yards).

He also led the team in scoring among non-kickers with 14 touchdowns and 84 points.

The situation was much the same in Dallas during his first season with the Cowboys in 2006. Again though running backs led the team in offensive opportunities (Julius Jones, 276 touches; Marion Barber 158 touches) it was Owens again that came right after with 85 touches. He also stood second in total offensive yardage and second in scoring with 13 touchdowns. And that was only because Barber was used primarily as a goal line back that season. 

Logic would say that Owens should be utilized in a similar fashion in his first season with the Bills. Marshawn Lynch should see the ball the most as a runner and receiver, with Fred Jackson not far behind, particularly with an expanded role in the receiving game a distinct possibility this season.

But beyond that there's no reason to think that Owens would not produce in much the way he has for his other NFL clubs upon arrival.

The only issue is Buffalo has had a number one wideout on their roster for some time in Lee Evans.

Now with Owens on board no one is putting the number one label on any receiver.

"I don't know that we have to think that way," said Bills head coach Dick Jauron. "Well over 50 percent of the time you've got three (receivers) on the field, so I don't feel like you need to number them."

"I think you have two very explosive players and you do what you can to get both players involved," Evans said. "Talking about who is number one, who's what, I don't think that's the right question."

"For me, I don't really speculate on any of that," Owens said. "I just come out here and do my job. I don't worry about who is number one, number two or none of that stuff. Once the ball is in the air, my job is to compete for it and try to make a play on it."

Evans and Owens seem content to play off one another. Owens did this successfully with Terry Glenn, a former number one wideout himself when they played together in Dallas.

Owens had 85 receptions for 1,180 yards and 13 touchdowns. Glenn had 70 catches for 1,047 yards and six touchdowns. Numbers like that for Evans would represent an increase in scoring and catches, but not in yardage.

Still Evans sounds more concerned about the offense succeeding as a whole and not whether he'll be seeing the ball enough.

"When the defense gives you a look, you take advantage of it to that side," said Evans. "And certainly for some games, it may go back and forth."

The trigger man in all this is Trent Edwards. He will largely determine who gets the ball and when in the passing game, especially with greater control of audibles at the line of scrimmage pre-snap.

But Edwards is choosing to take the simple, straightforward approach.

"My philosophy is to go through the progression, and do whatever Turk Schonert asks me to do," said Edwards. "If he tells me that's the number one receiver and that's the number two receiver, I'm going to go into my drop and look at the number one receiver. If he's open, I'm going to throw him the ball, if he's not open, I'm going to look to the number two. If he's open, I'll throw him the ball, if he's not, we're going to check the ball down. That's what's nice about this system. There are a lot of answers, there's a lot of progression reads that I can go through."

The bottom line is Owens ability to score and score often cannot be dismissed, and it will likely shift things in Buffalo's playmaking hierarchy.

As long as it's for the better however, it sounds as if the players in the Bills locker room are ready and willing to embrace the difference Owens will make even if it is at their own expense at times.

"I think the biggest thing is just for us both to work together and win football games," said Evans. "And get to the playoffs."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.