WIth OTAs in full swing, one question that may have already been answered in Buffalo is who will play in the slot.
Josh Reed is entering his eighth season with the Bills after spending the past seven seasons catching passes from several different quarterbacks, including Drew Bledsoe, Kelly Holcomb, JP Losman, and now Trent Edwards.
He has been a sure hands slot receiver that has filled the role of number two guy numerous times alongside Eric Moulds and Lee Evans, with 50 or more catches three times in his career including 51 in '07, and 56 in '08.
With the signing of Terrell Owens, Reed can move to his more natural position in the slot, rotating with speedy Roscoe Parrish.
Parrish is a natural slot receiver with his speed and quick cuts that could be nightmares for teams attempting to double team Evans and Owens. He hasn’t had such an opportunity at receiver, making more than 30 catches once, and only 97 catches in four seasons.
But what Parrish is known for is his punt return ability as a one-man highlight reel making opposing teams think three times before punting to him in the open field.
Last year he broke the Bills record for most punt return yards in a career with 1,312 and most punt return yards in a game with 120, and has the highest punt return average in NFL history with 13.96.
The problem heading into Parrish’s fifth season is that he’s not happy, and shouldn’t be, with just being a career punt returner. He believes that he can be a legitimate receiving threat in this league and that he has proven his ability to the Bills, just hasn’t had been given the chance come game time.
“This is my fifth year and they’ve seen me and they know my ability and what I can do and if I’m given the opportunity, it’s just that I haven’t been given the opportunity,” said Parrish.
“In the NFL it’s all about opportunity. If you give a guy an opportunity in the NFL he’s probably going to make plays. If you don’t give a guy an opportunity then you’ll never know the ability of what he can do."
Remember, a couple seasons ago vs. the Giants in the home season finale Roscoe made an incredible catch, diving five yards forward. He is a great sideline receiver that will do anything to keep both feet in bounds, which can be valuable in the end of games in two-minute drills.
The Bills seem set on making Josh Reed the third receiver and keeping Parrish in as a punt returner. With Reed not in attendance on Thursday, Parrish got an opportunity to get some playing time as a receiver with the first team offense.
I know I made a couple of plays today because Josh Reed wasn’t here and if he was here I probably wouldn’t have made the plays,” said Parrish. ”I’m just trying to take advantage of my opportunities.
Reed (5’10", 210lbs) is bigger than Parrish (5’9", 171lbs), but not as fast and can’t provide that spark that Parrish has time and time again.
Parrish is confident in his ability despite rumors that the Bills are looking to trade him.
”Maybe if I was to go to another team, I’m not saying I want to, but I might blossom more as a receiver,” Parrish said. ”I don’t want to put too much emphasis on that.”
If the Bills end up getting rid of Parrish, they could be making a big mistake. He has a lot of upside and given the opportunity to play in the slot on this year’s Bills, he should put up career numbers.
Can you imagine Roscoe playing in another uniform, lighting things up on another team, and burning the Bills on punt returns?
Although the Bills now have Leodis McKelvin as a bona fide kick returner and part-time punt returner, and can put Fred Jackson in as returner, the Bills just can’t get rid of that spark that Parrish provides.
Not to mention that if he keeps up his punt return stats that have carried him in four seasons, he will be a future Hall-of-Famer.
Come August, I hope the Bills find room on the 53-man roster for a guy that has a chance to become a great receiver, and possibly the best punt returner of all time.