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"Rebound" Nothing New To Bills' Moulds
By Bills Insider Lou Paone - July 5, 2004
Entering last season, Eric Moulds had no idea things would go so bad.
After 1287 yards and 10 scores in 2002--and the departure of Peerless Price to Atlanta--you would have expected his numbers to increase. Josh Reed was deemed ready to take over the second receiver spot, and Bobby Shaw was brought on just in case he wasn’t.
But 16 games did nothing to prove that true. Moulds' 780 receiving yards, 1 TD, 12.2 YPC, and 10 receptions of 20+ yards were his lowest totals since 1997--his second year in the league during which he played third fiddle to Quinn Early and Andre Reed. But to the eight-year veteran's credit, there was a good reason for this crash.
Moulds spent all of last year either injured or double-teamed. Josh Reed proved not ready for the 2nd receiver role, and Bobby Shaw wasn’t nearly the player the Bills had thought when they signed him. With nowhere to turn besides those three, the Bills’ pass-happy philosophy made their offensive attack predicable and ineffective.
However, the addition of new head coach Mike Mularkey, and an off-season of healing—has placed Eric Moulds in a friendlier role.
On the rebound.
The reasons for hope are plentiful. For one, the two-headed running attack of Travis Henry and Willis McGahee—along with Buffalo’s new found commitment to rushing the football, will make opposing defenses look run first instead of pass. Thus, creating more room downfield.
Secondly is the addition of Lee Evans. His height and speed makes him a Peerless Price clone. Although he is a rookie, the former Wisconsin Badger is said to be more ready for the pro game then Price was his rookie year. Even in a small role, Evans’ speed should stretch the defenses enough to open some space and eliminate teams doubling Moulds. The growth of second year pro Sam Aiken should help too.
A third positive is moving Josh Reed to the slot. A receiver’s third year is usually a charm, and the odds are he will break out in 2004. The same role during his rookie campaign netted him 13.8 yards per catch and eight receptions of 20+ yards (compared to 10.1 and five last season). After learning from Moulds for the last two seasons, it’s time the student made the professor proud.
And finally, but most importantly, the psyche and arm of Drew Bledsoe. Offensive coordinator Tom Clements and quarterbacks coach Sam Wyche have spent much of the off-season teaching Drew how to check down on his reads. Holding on to the ball less will put faith back in the passing game. Utilizing the short routes will make the corners and safeties creep up. It only takes a few big plays to change the complexion of a game, and Moulds is the guy who can do just that.
Or is he??
Much has been said about the health and skills of the eight-year pro. A groin injury nagged him all last season, and some say it may have caused his skills to diminish. Moulds has proclaimed that he is 100% healthy coming into this summer’s camp, and there are many that completely agree. Adding the fact that Moulds has averaged 1328 yards and eight touchdown receptions in even-ending years, and 892 yards and four scores in odd-ending years since 1998--and you'd think that a recovered groin isn't the only sign for recovery.
In order for the Bills to compete for a playoff spot in 2004, they will need a solid year from Moulds. All signs point to just that--but you really can't tell until they lace'em up.
The only thing guaranteed is that Moulds is ready--and hungry--to rebound once again.
Re: "Rebound" Nothing New To Bills' Moulds
How vital are Evans and Reed to the success of Bledsoe and the offense?
As Eric Moulds goes, so goes Buffalo's passing offense. Moulds had a 100-catch season in 2002 when he had Peerless Price putting up Pro Bowl numbers on the other side of the field. Josh Reed didn't provide that threat, but it was probably unfair to think that he would. He's more of a young Keenan McCardell than a Price, who averaged 13.3 yards per catch and had nine TDs in his last season in Buffalo. As Price's replacement, Reed ended up with 58 catches but the 10.1 yard average didn't stretch defenses the way Price could. Moulds consistently received double coverage and ended up with 64 catches, 780 yards and only one TD. New head coach Mike Mularkey should make major adjustments with the offense. Scheme-wise, he will have Drew Bledsoe release the ball after his fifth step. Mularkey has had Bledsoe work with an on-the-field clock to quicken his release and reduce his tendency to hold onto the ball too long. Over the past two seasons, Bledsoe has been sacked 103 times. That can't continue. Here's the game-plan: Rookie Lee Evans has 4.3 speed and should draw attention at the split end position. That might free up coverage against Moulds plus give Reed more of a chance to get into the open field in three-receiver sets. The other big change will be getting the running backs involved in the passing attack. For whatever reason, former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride didn't utilize HB Travis Henry as much in the passing offense last year. Henry went from 43 catches to 28, but he's a good receiver. So is Willis McGahee. With this type of talent and these changes, the Bills won't finish 30th in offense, and their 10.5 yard per catch numbers should improve. -- John Clayton, ESPN.com
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