Finally out of Buffalo, Evans has sights on deep playoff run

From talk radio to Internet message boards, all the talk has been how Lee Evans is the deep threat that the Ravens desperately needed.

But Evans wants something in return — a chance to play deep into January.

A member of the hapless Bills for seven seasons, Evans has endured six starting quarterbacks, five offensive coordinators and no playoff appearances. It's tough to think about the postseason when your head coach is getting canned like he was another order of wings and your quarterback is either an aging Drew Bledsoe or a busted project like J.P. Losman.

Evans was getting ready for another season with the constantly rebuilding Bills on Friday, heading to the Buffalo airport to get on a flight for the team's first preseason game when he received a call. He had been traded for a fourth-round pick to the Ravens, the only team that has won a playoff game in each of the past three seasons.

"Coming to a franchise like this, I was excited about it, as fired up as I could be," Evans said Saturday after his first practice with his new team. "I just want to do anything I can to do my part to help them get there."

Evans' "part" will really come into play if the Ravens can reach the postseason once again.

In the Ravens' last three playoff losses, they have produced five pass plays of at least 20 yards. But only one came from a wide receiver.

A team rarely beats the Pittsburgh Steelers by running the ball. Success against the Steelers is predicated on speed on the outside.

The longest catch by a Ravens wide receiver against the Steelers in the 2008 AFC championship game and last year's divisional playoff game was 16 yards.

Now, enter Evans, who has averaged nearly 16 yards per catch (15.7) in his NFL career.

"He's fast, he makes plays," coach John Harbaugh said. "He's a big yards-per-catch guy. That helps a lot."

Ask any Ravens coach or player about Evans and they'll inevitably use the word "fast."

He is fast when running routes. He is fast when learning the offense.

With Evans wearing No. 85 — albeit temporarily, according to him — it looked like Derrick Mason was back with the Ravens. Then, when the ball was snapped, all of the comparisons to Mason ended.

"He looked good out there today. He definitely has an extra gear to him," Flacco said. "That's going to be a big plus for us, to be able to kind of stretch the field vertically a little bit and challenge some teams. I'm excited about it. Yeah, he can run, and he can run routes well, too."

Evans has been one of the most dangerous deep threats in the NFL over the past decade. Only 11 wide receivers have averaged more yards per catch than him since 2004.

The most surprising number for the Ravens has been 25, which is the number of hours it took for Evans to fly to Baltimore, take a physical and step into the starting offense alongside Anquan Boldin at Saturday's practice.

Evans caught a long touchdown pass from Flacco midway through practice and ended his first workout with one-on-one drills with the quarterback.

"He didn't miss a beat," Harbaugh said. "He acted like he knew what we were doing and he's been in a meeting for about 10 minutes. It's not like he had any of the plays. It was kind of backyard communication."

Learning a new system is getting kind of old for Evans. He constantly answered to new offensive coordinators in Buffalo and caught passes from Bledsoe, Losman, Kelly Holcomb, Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm.

Evans, though, never complained publicly. He never vented to reporters when passes went to Terrell Owens or Stevie Johnson.

The five-time Bills captain just tried to fulfill a four-year, $37 million contract he signed in 2008 that made him the fourth highest-paid wide receiver at the time.

"It's been a whirlwind in Buffalo," he said. "To come into a stable situation, it builds confidence that I can continue to get better every day."

The Ravens have long sought a wide receiver who could strike fear in cornerbacks. The team signed Donte' Stallworth last season, but coaches never showed any confidence in getting him the ball.

Since 2000, only two Ravens receivers have averaged over 15 yards per catch (minimum 30 catches) for a season. Evans has averaged over 15 yards per catch in six of his NFL seasons.

"One of my biggest attributes is speed, being able to get down the field, stretch the defense," Evans said.

For Evans, the slowest part of his NFL career has been reaching the playoffs.

"I am very excited to come here and be a part of something special," Evans said with a smile. "Obviously, this has been a very historic franchise, a winning organization. I just want to come in and do my part, and do anything I can do to help them win."

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