A fairly common topic amongst Buffalo Bills fans of late has been Lee Evans’ future with the franchise. A very vocal minority of fans think he should be gone, either via trade for a mid-round draft pick or simply cut.
Their reasons? He is too old, slowing down, and his production has dropped the last few seasons.
There is no getting around the fact that he is getting older and his numbers have been unspectacular at best. Regarding his numbers, however, part of that can be attributed to not having the same quarterback starting all 16 games in a season the past three years.
It is especially difficult for a deep threat such as Evans to post consistent numbers when the quarterback who had most of the starts two seasons ago and at the beginning of last season was Trent Edwards of “Captain Checkdown” fame.
When the quarterback is unwilling to throw a pass beyond the first-down marker consistently, it is quite difficult for a deep threat to post good numbers.
Regarding slowing down, look at the tape from last season. The Baltimore Ravens will likely disagree with fans saying Evans has slowed down. He ran past their corners on multiple plays, hence why he had three touchdowns and his best game of the season.
He also was a handful for the Cincinnati Bengals to keep covered, which is why Steve Johnson was able to do so much the second half of the game. Evans has not slowed down and will continue to be a deep threat to be reckoned with.
Evans’ impact on the Bills’ offense is measured by more than just his statistics. The offense was most productive last season when Evans was on the field. Unlike with having Edwards lining up under center, opposing defenses had to respect Evans’ speed with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback.
Even though Fitzy is not known for his accuracy, especially on the deep ball, he certainly was more willing to take chances deep.
Even a chance at completing a 50+ yard bomb to Evans was enough to keep defenses respecting that, which in turn opened up things for wide receivers Steve Johnson and Roscoe Parrish to have career seasons, even if Parrish’s was cut short by injury.
Without Evans, it is highly unlikely that Johnson would have amassed 10 touchdowns and over 1000 yards receiving.
The younger wide receivers on the roster can certainly stand to learn more from Evans as well, considering he has played against a number of the top cornerbacks in the league.
This offense is at its best when Evans is healthy and on the field opposite Steve Johnson. Now that Johnson has posted a 1,000+-yard season, it stands that defenses will start accounting for him.
Once that happens, Lee Evans will be able to take advantage and start posting better numbers.