Buffalo's offensive identity changing

After years of predictability, the Bills offense will be much more diverse this fall. Signing Terrell Owens allows the Bills to open up their playbook and get creative. Quarterback Trent Edwards (left) will have plenty of options...

Last season, the Bills offense was an easily solved riddle for opposing defensive coordinators.

Double-team wide receiver Lee Evans on the outside and you shut down Buffalo's passing game. Commit an extra man in the box and stop running back Marshawn Lynch.

In other words, lack of weapons made for too many frustrating Sundays for the Bills' offense, particularly over the final month when the team failed to score an offensive touchdown in three out of five games.

Buffalo tumbled from the playoff picture with its third consecutive 7-9 finish.

Things should be different in 2009.

In the running game, Buffalo not only has Lynch, but an emerging force in Fred Jackson and a proven veteran in free agent Dominic Rhodes.

In the passing game, well, Buffalo figures to make a huge leap from its 22nd ranking in the NFL when it recorded just six plays of 40-plus yards. The big addition, of course, is veteran star Terrell Owens, the league's third all-time receiver plucked from the unemployment line just days after he was cut by Dallas.

He joins Evans, proven slot target Josh Reed, emerging talent Steve Johnson and promising rookie tight end Shawn Nelson.

Ask third-year quarterback Trent Edwards what he's thinking, and a smile creases his face.

"They're going to try and stop Marshawn in the run game and they're going to try and stop Terrell and Lee on the outside and you can't really do both," said Edwards during a break in the team's organized team activities at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"It's my job when we do throw the ball to get those guys an accurate football and when we are running the football, it's to get us in the right run play and allow Marshawn to run the football. It's exciting to know we have those weapons on our offense."

Even with constant double-team pressure, Evans managed to catch 63 passes, good for 1,017 yards but just three touchdowns. With Owens in the picture, he should see his first steady diet of single coverage. That opens up a world of possibilities and Owens, who has been around the block a few times, knows it.

Everybody wants to rank a pecking order of Bills receivers, but Owens said that's not important.

"I don't really speculate on any of that," he said when asked, as the new guy, if he's deferring to Evans. "I just come out here and do my job. I don't worry about who is No. 1, No. 2 or none of that stuff. I'll leave that guesswork up to you guys. Once the ball is in the air, my job is to compete for it and try to make a play on it."

And Edwards' job is to throw it. In passing drills, he and Owens have been hooking up for some long completions. Pump routes are proving deadly.

"It was just a matter of putting the ball up and allowing him to make a play and that's kind of what we need to do here," Edwards said of one long pass completion to T.0. "That's why we brought him in here to do that and that's why we brought in those guys up front (free agent center Geoff Hangartner and rookie guards Eric Wood and Andy Levitre), because they need to block for me. They need to block and allow us to make plays and throw the football like that."

The team's current stretch of 11 OTAs followed by a mandatory minicamp in June are important for developing timing in the passing game without the pressure of a pass rush or contact.

"There are certain throws that I throw better than others and there are certain routes that he runs better than others, and it's a matter of running those plays consistently," Edwards said.

Owens, whose reputation as a disruptive locker room force dogs him, has impressed his new teammates with his work ethic. He's a very serious practice player and it's obvious. After one practice this week, Edwards, Owens and Evans stayed afterwards for 25 minutes for extra work.

"Going through plays, repetition, talking with Trent," said Owens explaining how chemistry is developed.

"And just talking to ourselves about plays and seeing what plays worked best with Lee and I and Josh on the other side. So we're going to have some match-ups where we're going to try to exploit some people, but right now for me it's just trying to get everything and as much information I can down as far as this offense is concerned."


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