Talent is something that every NFL team has. Players do not make it to the pro level without possessing a great deal talent and successfully applying it to their respective position. But in every pool of talent there is an elite group at the top. Those teams that have elite talent on their roster hold a certain degree of power over other NFL clubs. The power to intimidate.
When the Bills had Bruce Smith as their right defensive end for 15 years he was without question an intimidating presence. Offenses would specifically game plan for him and sometimes double and triple teams were not enough to keep the Hall of Famer under wraps.
It gave Buffalo's defense a valuable psychological edge and forced opponents to react to what Smith was doing rather than dictate to the Bills what they wanted to do offensively.
Buffalo has had some very talented players since then, but not capable of doing what Smith or Jim Kelly could do on either side of the ball. Simply put the Bills, though blessed with some quality talent, have lacked the intimidation factor.
Entering the 2009 season however, it would appear they have it again, at least on offense. They may also have it on defense, but whether it reveals itself this fall remains to be seen.
The player that has the ability to intimidate the opposition is Terrell Owens. With 139 career touchdowns, there's only one receiver in NFL history that has more (Jerry Rice).
"Nobody's going to fear somebody that has never done it," said head coach Dick Jauron. "He's clearly done it a number of times in his career as we all know. Obviously it's his work ethic and his talent level and his size. You have to account for them and you have to worry about it."
Lining up opposite Lee Evans, Owens will force defenses to make difficult decisions and put Buffalo's attack in a position to dictate play to their opponent rather than the other way around.
"They've got to double someone and whoever they double, the other is always going to have single coverage," said Trent Edwards of the Evans-Owens combination. "That's why Arizona was so effective. 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, they try to take him away, and then you throw to the other guy and he's going to be open too. 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."
So even if and when Owens becomes the focus of an opposing defense because he's so dangerous, it will provide more opportunities for the rest of the skill position players to make things happen.
"I think when you can distribute the ball evenly among everybody it really puts the defense at a disadvantage," said Evans. "That'll be the key to get everybody involved and keep everything moving so you can dictate things to a defense and you're not behind the eight ball all the time."
When an opponent has fewer answers to the matchup problems they're facing, it's a big concern. And when they're hoping, rather than knowing, that those answers will work they're effectively intimidated. Owens does that.
"I know I'll help this organization out, and I'm looking forward to getting with Trent (Edwards), Lee (Evans), and the guys and putting some points on the board," said Owens. "That's what I've done everywhere I've been and it's going to continue. I'm looking forward to the opportunities."
The other player with the potential to intimidate is top draft choice Aaron Maybin. His physical skill set is so impressive opposing offensive tackles will worry about being able to handle his quickness off the ball.
"The speed rushers definitely put fear into the offensive tackle," said Jauron. "Just like a speed receiver puts fear in a corner. (Maybin) has got that."
Opposing offensive coordinators will have to take note of where Maybin is lining up in passing situations and account for him even as a rookie because his speed off the ball is a major concern. The only reason it may not intimidate right away is because a pass rusher, no matter how physically gifted, cannot be successful with speed alone.
"The number one thing for any skilled pass rusher in the NFL is you have to have a counter (move)," said Jauron. "You can't depend on one thing to beat the tackle because they'll adjust if that's all you have. What he has is a quick first step and speed off the edge. Those are things you can't teach. So he's gifted that way, now he'll just have to work on how to counter that."
Maybin was already making good progress in that area in the spring practices and believes he'll be able to make an impact defensively as a rookie.
"The coaches were commenting on a lot of things that I was starting to pick up on as far as my counter moves and things like that," said Maybin of the spring practices. "Throughout that last week I had a number of sacks just off the counter moves. I really feel great about it. I feel like I've progressed each day and I'm only going to get better. So I really feel confident about what went on."
If Maybin is able to demand extra attention like Owens it will force opponents to pull attention away from veteran pass rusher Aaron Schobel. It could also take more receivers off the field for the opponent because they'll need more players in the formation to protect the quarterback.
When a pass rusher can intimidate the opposition it can change their entire approach.
It may not be there yet on the defensive side of the ball for the Bills, but Buffalo certainly has the intimidation factor on offense.
"He knows what he's doing and how to do it," said Jauron of Owens. "He clearly presents a very good target. He knows how to play coverages, how to play defenders and he plays with a lot of confidence. I'm very happy that he's here. He's going to do a lot of things for our offense."
"With someone like myself, I can come in, I can add that extra piece," said Owens. "And we can get over the hump."