This is the second of 11 articles targeting all position situations for the Buffalo Bills entering the 2008 season. The second entry will deal with the wide receiver position.
Speed, agility, power, size. This is what the '08 receiving core will bring to the table for the Buffalo Bills.
Lee Evans is an outstanding receiver. Everyone already knows this. His game against the Texans in 2006 in which he caught two 83-yard touchdown passes in route to a 24-21 victory, demonstrated his ability to step up and be "The Man" for the Buffalo Bills, whomever the quarterback is. Evans created a small buzz around the city when he implied that he would have rather had Losman throwing him the ball than Edwards. This is mostly because when Losman is on the field, he is willing to take the risk of looking for Evans beyond 30 yards down field, a risk that Edwards wasn't ready to take in his rookie campaign. Evans will once again take up two sets of eyes this year, except this year there'll be another reliable option for the quarterback.
Josh Reed had problems in his first two seasons with a Bills jersey on his back. He dropped balls that hit him square in the numbers. He also was criticized last season for a questionable curl-up at the end of a meaningless game, seemingly too scared of getting hit to stay midair. However, all public criticisms aside, Reed made the decision in himself that he was not going to let his career fizzle out so soon. He chose to work doubly hard and come back in '07 with vengeance in his heart. Giving his quarterback a solid target, he also showed the willingness to cross the field. He will perform well in slot, and opposite Evans when needed.
Roscoe Parrish has won himself a place in the hearts of Buffalo fans with his outstanding returning ability. He set an all-time Bills record in yards per return in the punting game last season, and that was despite having multiple returns for touchdowns called back on blocking penalties. His only touchdown in the passing game came on Sunday night, the only touchdown in a blowout loss. It's still yet to be seen, however, if he can provide the deep threat the team needs to steal momentum in games.
James Hardy, the Bills' second round selection in the 2008 draft, will step in and have an instant impact. It's up to the coaches whether he will fill in the #2 role, or swap that time with Parrish and Reed. The biggest criticism last season of the Bills' receiving core was the lack of size and power. Hardy brings that with his 6'6 frame. There has been a trend recently in the NFL of large possession receivers making the headlines, so hopefully Hardy will provide the Bills with some headline-worthy plays.
After these four, it's up in the air if any other receivers will make an impact for the team.
They currently have 5 other receivers under contract- Justin Jenkins, Steven Johnson, Scott Mayle, Jason Jones and Felton Huggins. They will likely keep one of these 5 on the team, and place two on the practice squad. The most likely candidate to make the team is Justin Jenkins, who played well on special teams last year and likely will have the backing of Bobby April, the Bills' Special Teams Coordinator and Assistant Head Coach. Steve Johnson, a 7th round pick for the Bills in 2008, and Scott Mayle, , will most likely be the two designated to the practice squad. Given the amount of injuries last season for the Bills, there's a decent chance that one of them, if not both, will be brought up by the end of the season. None of these 5, however, will have a significant bearing on the passing game.