CANTON, Ohio -– What can be learned from two first-down-producing, but non-scoring catches?
Not much. Maybe not anything.
But when Terrell Owens' hands are involved, such plays are going to be discussed.
The greatest significance of his 16- and 11-yard catches on the Buffalo Bills' second and fourth offensive plays in their 21-18 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Sunday night's Hall of Fame Game is that they came during his much-anticipated Bills debut. In that context, they are, right or wrong, going to be viewed as a prelude to what's in store for the regular season.
The Bills spent $6.5 million on Owens with the expectation that, in addition to helping sell more tickets (done) and merchandise (done), he also would provide a desperately needed spark to their offense. The answer to whether that is actually going to happen won't come in the first of five preseason games, even had Owens finished it with five or 10 catches for a touchdown or two.
A preseason opener is still a preseason opener, and all judgments must be reserved.
Plus, Owens himself isn't the type to get all worked up about catching a couple of passes in a preseason opener, especially with that first drive ending with Trent Edwards throwing an interception straight into the hands of safety Michael Griffin. Owens has been around too long. He has accomplished too much.
"This is my 14th season," he said. "So a ball is a ball when it comes to me. It's all about me making the catch and, as an offense, moving the team."
The Bills moved fairly well using their no-huddle scheme. Edwards looked pretty comfortable -- at least until he threw that interception.
But all, or at least most, eyes were on the 35-year-old Owens. His every move was being followed and closely scrutinized.
Here are some quick assessments: He looked fast, particularly on the quick slant he ran for his first Buffalo reception. He looked explosive. He looked athletic. He looked like, had he been on the field for a full game, he could easily have made additional plays of note.
"I feel good," Owens said. "We've been practicing a lot. Sometimes you can have a no-huddle offense that keeps a defense off balance a lot. Until you get into a real-life game situation like this, you don't know. But that's what the practices are for. I think we've gotten a lot of practices under our belt, and it was good to get under the lights and get something going."
Owens certainly seemed as if he was having no problem grasping the scheme of his fourth team in the last seven seasons. You wonder how much of a challenge that is, to go from San Francisco to Philadelphia to Dallas and now to Buffalo, and to be able to adapt and adjust. Sure, pass routes are pass routes, and Owens has run every one imaginable in his long career.
But there are still nuances that change from team to team. There are still varying philosophies between offensive coordinators. With four preseason games to go, Owens certainly has plenty of time to pick things up. Yet he is comfortable with what he knows so far.
"I have knowledge of how things are and the concept of the routes to learn new offenses," Owens said. "I took it upon myself to stick with (Bills receivers) coach (Tyke) Tolbert and just hone down on the plays and really get in synch. And I think that, if I'm doing what I'm doing and Trent knows what's going on as far as his progressions, (we'll be fine).
"The offense is pretty much down. It's just about execution right now. This is early. It's the first preseason game, and we'll make the assessments and adjustments as the preseason goes along."
We'll also have discussions and draw conclusions about Owens' performance every step of the way.