Owens a year one difference maker

Bills COO/GM Russ Brandon said it. Head coach Dick Jauron said it and quarterback Trent Edwards said it. When it comes to Terrell Owens, his numbers speak for themselves.

"He's got 951 catches in the National Football League, that's a lot of catches," said 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.

But what Bills fans want to know is what kind of impact can Owens have on Buffalo's offense in year one with the club. If past history is any indication the impact will be significant.

After playing his first eight NFL seasons for San Francisco, Owens has played for two other teams. The Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys. In his first season with each of those clubs Owens put up remarkable numbers and was directly responsible for considerably improving the offensive statistics for both of those teams.

In 2003 the Philadelphia Eagles were a quality team. 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.

There was no question the playmaking receiver was an integral factor in improving the Eagles offensive ranking from 18th (2003) to 9th (2004). Their passing game improved from 20th to 7th as Owens boosted Philadelphia's passing yard average by almost 60 yards per game.

But most impressive of all was Owens impact in the scoring column. With just 17 receiving touchdowns for Philadelphia in 2003, Owens' 14 in 2004 nearly doubled that figure for the Eagles as they had 32 the following season with the dynamic receiver on the roster.

With 1,200 yards receiving in just 14 games, 14 touchdowns and 14 plays of 25 yards or more, Owens' numbers were superior to those of Thrash and Pinkston combined from the
season before (1,133 yards, 3 touchdowns, 9 plays of 25 yards plus).

The situation was similar 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) averaging less than 210 yards per game. They also 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.

Dallas improved from 15th in scoring in 2005 to fourth in 2006 with Owens on the squad with the average ironically improving by just more than a touchdown (20.3 to 26.5).

Owens had posted almost twice the number of touchdowns (13) that Dallas' leading receiver, Terry Glenn, had the year before (7). He also had almost twice the number of yards after the catch as the speedy Glenn (410 to 222).

Averaging out those 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 told Buffalobills.com. "I'm a passionate person, I'm a loyal person and whomever's uniform I'm in, and it's the Buffalo Bills now, I'm going to play 181 percent."

And with critics claiming that he has lost a step at age 35, Owens is determined to prove that he's still a premier playmaker as evidenced by his comments earlier this week in a radio interview on the FAN 590 in Toronto.

Said Owens.

"I'm more motivated now than I've ever been."

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