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Evans close to getting his No. 1 wish

Lee Evans says he's ready to be the Buffalo Bills' No. 1 wide receiver.

He better be.

With the impending departure of Eric Moulds, Evans is about to inherit the job.

Like all of us, Evans is monitoring the Moulds situation. Evans would love to have Moulds back. He sees Moulds as more than a teammate. The 10-year veteran has been a mentor and one of the biggest influences on Evans' young NFL career.

But even Evans seems resigned to the likelihood of Moulds leaving. That's why Evans is getting ready to go into his third season as the primary receiver in the Bills' passing game.

"Right now I'm preparing myself for whatever happens," Evans said during a recent session with the media. "And if they put me into that role, then I've got to do what I have to do to fulfill it."

The Bills had plans to make Evans the No. 1 receiver next season even if Moulds was still on the team. It comes down to a pair of numbers: 13 and 33.

One is the position Evans was taken in the first round of the 2004 draft. The other is Moulds' age when the team heads to training camp in July.

Undoubtedly Moulds can still be the go-to receiver. He proved as much with a strong finish in 2005.

But when you draft a player 13th overall he can't play a supporting role forever. At some point he has to become the star.

Evans insists it would take the collective efforts of all the receivers to replace Moulds. Good point. Josh Reed, Roscoe Parrish, Andre' Davis and Sam Aiken will have to elevate their games to take some pressure off Evans.

But somebody has to assume the featured role. That has to be Evans. Is he ready for the job? I don't know, but it's time to find out.

Evans' newfound status reminds me of a conversation Moulds and I had about Peerless Price four years ago. Frustrated with being the Bills' No. 2 receiver, Price clamored to be the top guy.

Price got his chance after being traded to Atlanta after the 2002 season. His response? Two mostly unproductive years with the Falcons, who released him last offseason. He also was let go by Dallas and spent most of last year out of the league.

By no means am I comparing Evans and Price. Evans is clearly the superior player, in terms of talent, toughness and attitude.

But as Moulds once said it's a big difference between wanting to be a No. 1 receiver and actually being one. Being THE MAN comes with its share of challenges.

Moulds had to fight through a lot of double teams. That freed Evans to work against a single defender and he took advantage, using his great speed and route-running skills to record 13 catches of 40 yards or more -- eight of them 50 yards or more -- in his career. He averaged 25 yards on six touchdowns last season.

If Moulds is out, Evans will draw far more attention from opposing defenses. He will see teams rolling additional coverage to his side of the field more often.

Evans will find ways to get open. He's too good to be completely shut down. But how effective he'll be depends on the play-calling of new offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild, who worked under offensive mad scientist Mike Martz in St. Louis and is bringing some of the Rams' wide-open system to Buffalo.

It depends on his supporting cast and it especially depends on how quickly the team resolves an unsettled quarterback position.

Evans has spoken to Rams All-Pro Torry Holt, and is excited about what his role will be in the new offense. But we already know what Holt can do as a No. 1 receiver. Evans is still an unknown.

Is he ready to be the Bills' top receiver? He says yes. The Bills sure hope he's right.


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