Lee Evans (Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Nothing changes the momentum of a football game like a long pass that goes for a touchdown. It seemingly comes out of nowhere and takes the air out of the defense and the crowd in a matter of seconds. When trying to come up with a list of the best deep ball threats in the NFL right now, it wouldn't be very long until Lee Evans name comes to mind.
In addition to being the NFL record-holder with two 80+ yard TD catches in a single game, Evans has made it commonplace to see highlights of him catching the deep ball or catching a short pass and sprinting past the defense for a long touchdown. He has an amazing 21 catches of 40 yards or more, and averages better than 16 yards per catch for his short four-year career.
For all the blazing speed that Evans possesses, he is a notoriously slow starter every year. If this were a fantasy football article, Evans would be an ideal buy low candidate every year at mid-season.
As a rookie in 2004, he caught 31 passes for 507 yards and seven touchdowns over the last eight games after going 17 for 336 yards and two TDs in the first eight. In 2005, he made 30 of his 48 catches, 509 of his 743 yards, and six of his seven touchdown receptions over the second half of the season. During his breakout 2006 campaign in which he had 82 catches for 1,292 yards and eight TDs, Evans totaled 43 receptions for 805 yards and six scores in the last eight games.
This season has been no different, except that Evans started his second-half surge a little earlier than usual. After catching just 12 balls for 101 yards and no touchdowns through the first five games,
Evans has 27 for 518 yards and two touchdowns in the last five. Included among those catches was an 85-yard TD against the Jets in week 8 that clinched the 13-3 victory for the Bills in the 4th quarter.
Evans resurgence coincides directly with J.P. Losman being re-inserted as the starting quarterback for Buffalo. He throws a much better deep ball than Trent Edwards and has an uncanny knack for coming up with the big play regardless of how poorly he has been playing up to that point in the game.
The Bills have won 3 of the last 4 games since Losman took over with the only loss being the 56-10 beating they took from New England last Sunday. With Marshawn Lynch already ruled out for Sunday's game it will be even more important for the Bills to get Evans the ball early and often to have any chance to spring the upset against a Jaguars team that gains confidence every week.
The likely scenario will be to see Brian Williams following Evans all over the field on Sunday as Rashean Mathis is questionable with a groin injury and will be a game-time decision. The absence of Williams in this game last year was exploited regularly by Losman, as they constantly avoided Mathis and matched Evans up against first-time starter Dee Webb. The result was numerous key catches by Evans and an eventual victory for Buffalo.
While Scott Starks played well filling in for Mathis in the second half last week against San Diego, expect defensive coordinator Mike Smith to avoid a repeat of last year by having Williams follow Evans everywhere Evans lines up on the field.
Lee Evans is the key to the Bills offense and if he is able to be kept quiet, the offense should struggle to move the ball. However, if Evans and Losman are allowed even the smallest opening to throw a deep ball, chances are they will make a play and opposing defenses will be left wondering what happened.