Bills are only good when Evans is

By Anthony Bialy  |   Thursday, July 09, 2009  |  Comments( 348 )

Buffalo Bills
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Lee Evans has been a burger-flipping MBA for too long. The Buffalo Bills wide receiver has seen his potential wasted for years as a result of the poor situations created by his franchise. That was true on a game-by-game basis last season. When Evans did well, so did the squad; unfortunately, the more frequent inverse was also true. He can’t be blamed for failing to get help.

Overall, he only caught 63 passes for 1,017 yards in 2008; “only” is a relative term, as that’s objectively a fine accumulation. Still, Evans is better than the 19th-best receiver in the league, which is where he finished in yardage last season. One factor restraining him was the disparity from one week to the next.

It’s not unusual for a receiver to collect wildly uneven amounts depending on the game; as perhaps expected, he didn’t get exactly 63.5625 yards per outing. But his achievements frequently corresponded with Buffalo’s results.

Everything started well: Evans got 332 yards in the first four contests, which were coincidentally all wins. But he notably and unsurprisingly suffered as Trent Edwards faltered. Evans accumulated 116 yards on seven receptions in the team’s first battle with, and loss to, the Miami Dolphins. Unfortunately, the ensuing defeats also represented personal setbacks for the star wideout.

The Wisconsin man acquired only 63 yards over the next three outings, all losses. Evans is capable of obtaining that amount of ground in an exceptional half; instead, it took him six halves to compile it. That’s a knock on the offense, not him. Shamefully, that stretch included being held without a catch against the Cleveland Browns, which stands as a stain on this franchise’s permanent record. That follows them for life.

He did gain 80 yards in the loss against the San Francisco 49ers. But Evans only managed 23 yards in the Toronto fiasco, a 16-3 loss to Miami, and one fewer than that the next week while facing the New York Jets.

The wideout was then held to 19 yards in the win over the Denver Broncos before picking up 63 during the useless season finale against the New England Patriots. That at least got him to a four-digit seasonal total; it was an honor he deserved and was almost deprived of thanks to his surroundings. He just needs a classier environment to put his skills to good use, as it’s not his fault he’s residing in the gutter. Evans is Buffalo’s Billy Ray Valentine, Capricorn.

Could the classier surroundings finally come into existence this season? One signing of course has raised the talent level. Terrell Owens’ presence means members of opposing secondaries have to choose which side of the field toward which to cheat. But such poisonous choices for adversaries will be useless to the Bills unless the quarterback can get the more lightly covered receiver the ball.

Edwards needs to remain both healthy and good for the entire season, not just about three-quarters of it. The retooled offensive line also must produce conditions which permit the passer to do his job. Is it asking too much? In recent years for this club, the answer is yes.

Evans has been saddled with ridiculous burdens throughout most of his pro career. The Bills have expected him to thrive despite having to catch passes from the likes of Kelly Holcomb and Bizarro Drew Bledsoe. He’s also played in years past with a subprime line and a rushing attack that’s often been either uninspired or underutilized. On top of that, he coped with a quarterback flailing through his second year last year.

And, Evans has obviously been Buffalo’s only serious receiving threat since Eric Moulds left town. A thousand-yard season under such conditions is a staggering example of overachieving.

More than any other position, receivers need help to exceed. When Evans struggles, it means the entire offense is inoperative. He deserves more than to be a coal mine canary. The organization has attempted to remedy the dire situation with several personnel additions; now, they hope for improved performances from the personnel they already had. They’re hoping that they’ve simultaneously enhanced Evans’, and the team’s, conditions.
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About Anthony Bialy

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CommentsComments: 348  |  Sign Up  View all comments
Greg S
09:22 AM
It all comes down to the offensive line- can they give Trent enough time to get the ball down field, or will he be dumping it off...
09:46 AM
Greg, I agree with you--it all comes down to the offensive line. I also agree--it will probably take until week 4-6 to get into...
ba bye
11:16 AM
The 13th draft pick goes to a fairly crappy team. The Bills were crappy in 2003, and have resolutely remained crappy since then....
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