Can the Bills finally maximize Parrish's potential? (Photo Source)
He was the team's top draft pick in 2005, heralded as a unique athletic talent that would add electricity and explosiveness to Buffalo's offense.
Entering his fourth season in the league, however, Buffalo Bills wide receiver has yet to completely deliver on his potential as an electrifying slot receiver. Sure, he's established himself as one of the game's most dominant punt returners, and he's still good for some big plays here and there on offense (see - touchdowns against Jacksonville and New England; diving reception against the Giants), but his impact on Buffalo's offense has been minimal in his three seasons as a Bill.
Might that change in 2008? Clearly, Parrish is still the most dangerous player on Buffalo's roster when the ball is in his hands - and with a better supporting cast at wide receiver and (keep the fingers crossed) some stability at quarterback, Parrish could be the one Bills offensive player most difficult to game plan for on Sundays. Whether or not the Bills can finally get the most out of their secret weapon, however, depends on the following factors:
Trent Edwards and James Hardy. We're all well aware of the issues that faced Buffalo's offense last season - instability at quarterback, a lack of threats in the red zone and outside opposite Lee Evans, and atrocious play-calling topped the list. Yet through all of the mediocrity, Parrish quietly put together his best statistical season, even though his 35 receptions, 352 yards and 1 touchdown are hardly scintillating numbers (Parrish also had a rushing touchdown and a punt return for a score). It's not completely out of the question to believe that if Trent Edwards can show steady improvement - even if it's slow improvement - and rookie James Hardy can open things up even a little for Evans, Josh Reed and Parrish, that Buffalo's diminutive receiver can finally find his offensive niche. But unless Edwards and Hardy can deliver on their own potential, Parrish will likely be stuck in the offensive rut he's been in for his first three seasons.
Himself. Parrish needs to become more consistent when the ball is in his hands. He's proven he can make defenders miss in the open field and make big plays; can he be a go-to guy for Edwards on third downs, though? Parrish hasn't found his offensive niche yet because guys like Evans and especially Reed have established a comfort zone with Buffalo's quarterbacks. Those two guys are the go-to guys in certain situations; Parrish does not have that type of situation yet. Parrish has 73 career receptions; if he's utilized more efficiently in 2008, he could nab more than half of his career reception total in 2008. Which brings us to...
Turk Schonert. No one is more important to the future of Parrish in this offense than Schonert, the man charged with improving on the historically awful play-calling of former coordinator Steve Fairchild(-Mularkey). Schonert is very likely aware of his need to utilize Parrish better, but he can't be satisfied by giving him the ball and saying "go". Touches for the sake of touches won't help Parrish, especially since plays with that type of player - the small, shifty, explosive guy - are typically boom or bust. The Bills need more booms than busts this season. Schonert needs to get his most unique offensive threat quality touches, get Parrish the ball in space, and let him go to work.
Parrish may not need to improve much on his 71 touches last season (35 receptions, 3 rushes, 27 punt returns, 6 kick returns) to be a more explosive weapon for Buffalo. The big question is can the Bills be more selective and creative in getting Parrish the ball? Defenses know what's coming with guys like Evans, Hardy and Reed. What the Bills have going for them is how Schonert utilizes guys like Parrish, who can hurt you in a lot of ways. The Bills have had a secret offensive weapon for three years now. It's time they started maximizing his impact.