Position Battles: Is 81 Better Than 83 in Buffalo?

Jeffery LandersContributor IMay 30, 2009

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 28:  Lee Evans #83 of the Buffalo Bills waits to walk on the field before the game against the New England Patriots on December 28, 2008 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Lee Evans won’t talk about it. Surprisingly, neither will Terrell Owens. But both have to be wondering who the No. 1 receiver will be when the Bills kick off against the Patriots on the first Monday Night Football game of the year.

Sure, Evans is the veteran receiver on the team as T.O. prepares for his first season with the Bills. Owens, however, brings better numbers with him to Buffalo.

Head coach Dick Jauron will eventually have to make a decision as to who the top receiver will be in his lineup. Speculators might take Evans and his quiet leadership. Others might take the play-making Owens. We might not find out the true answer until QB Trent Edwards answers it for us – not with his words, but to whom he throws more in the early part of the 2009 schedule.

If Edwards were smart (he’s a Stanford graduate, by the way), he would make Terrell Owens his No. 1 target on the field in 2009, regardless of who the leader is in the locker room.

Since 2004, Evans’ first season in the league, Owens has bettered Evans by 63 receptions, 26 touchdowns and 1,073 yards all while playing 15 fewer games.

·        Owens: 65 games, 359 receptions, 58 touchdowns, 5,550 yards

·        Evans: 80 games, 296 receptions, 32 touchdowns, 4,477 yards

Owens outperformed Evans in 2006, Evans’ best season in the National Football League. That year was also T.O.’s first season in Dallas under Bill Parcells.

·        Owens: 16 games, 85 catches, 13 touchdowns, 1,180 yards

·        Evans: 16 games, 82 catches, 8 touchdowns, 1,292 yards

And finally, Owens caught more touchdown passes last year than the entire Buffalo receiving core.

·        Owens: 16 games, 69 reception, 10 touchdowns, 1,052 yards

·        Evans: 16 games, 63 receptions, 3 touchdowns*, 1,017 yards

*Josh Reed and Roscoe Parrish had 1 TD a piece; rookies Steve Johnson and James Hardy each had 2 TD

Of course other factors have to be included, such as O.C. Turk Schoenert’s installation of a no-huddle offense, and the fact that Edwards likes to pepper the ball around the field, using his tight ends to maximum potential.

Certainly, as a one-two punch, both Owens and Evans will have a huge impact on Buffalo’s passing game, but T.O.’s numbers simply outperform Evans’ in every way.

Evans signed a long-term contract in 2008. He’ll be in Buffalo in 2010, but Owens will most likely be one-and-done in the Queen City. Trent Edwards, and the Bills, need to take advantage of Owens while he’s in town.

On the defensive side of the ball, rookie DE Aaron Maybin won’t challenge for a starting spot, but he will push the first string to its limits.

Reports coming out of Orchard Parkindicate say that Maybin has been practicing at left end with the second team defense during the OTAs. The Penn State product brings a much-needed bolster to a defensive line that didn’t perform well last season.

Buffalo’s top DE in 2008 only recorded 58 tackles and four sacks. That was Ryan Denney, and he was a backup forced into the starting role when Aaron Schobel went down with a torn ligament in his left foot. Not to mention Denney is getting up there in age at 31 years. Schobel is also 31, and he didn’t have surgery in the off-season to correct the problem.

Maybin is only 21, left PSU early and is still learning Perry Fewell’s speed-oriented defensive scheme. The early part of 2009 will be tough for the rookie, but Maybin has plenty of speed. If he develops physically as a DE through OTAs and training camp, he could be more than just a passing-down player.

One question to ask: Would the Bills consider moving Maybin to play linebacker alongside former Nittany Lion and current Buffalo MLB Paul Posluszny?

He has the speed Fewell likes in the middle of the field, and the Bills could do better than Keith Ellison on the outside.

It’s an intriguing thought, but with the lack of depth at DE, it probably wouldn’t happen under Jauron.