Which player on the Buffalo Bills roster scares opponents most? That question is ridiculously easy to answer: wide receiver Lee Evans. The biggest star on the Bills, Evans enters his fourth season coming off of his break-out year of 82 catches, 1,292 yards and 8 touchdowns. But in order for Evans to continue his improvement and emerge as one of the most dominant wideouts in the league, the rest of the Bills' wide receivers must step up to take pressure off of Evans.
Heading into the second season of Steve Fairchild's offensive system, it's clear what the Bills are trying to build at wide receiver: versatility. That's a theme that is prominent throughout the offense as a whole. The team is likely to keep five or six wideouts, and all of them could bring very different skill sets to the offense.
The team has receivers who can stretch the field. There are receivers who can make "possession" plays underneath. There are receivers who are devastating in the open field, and there are receivers who will have plays designed specifically for them. Every one of the Bills' top four receivers can run a reverse effectively. There are a variety of weapons and a creative playbook to utilize them. But can one of these receivers step up so that Evans can become the all-around receiver J.P. Losman needs him to be?
83-Lee Evans: A rising star, Evans routinely torched defenses last season on long touchdown passes. Widely considered one of (if not the) best deep threat in the NFL, Evans must make his presence felt all over the field to become a complete wide receiver. Losman will look for him more than ever - expect big things from Evans this season.
81-Peerless Price: He didn't exactly light the gridiron on fire last season, but Price made plays in clutch situations - specifically, huge touchdowns at home against Minnesota and on the road at Houston. Should continue to develop a rapport with Losman and could see more looks this season. Will start the year as the #2 receiver.
82-Josh Reed: The most likely candidate to be Buffalo's "possession" receiver, Reed established himself as Losman's go-to receiver on underneath routes. Could end up being Buffalo's second-leading receiver, even if he spends the majority of the year working out of the slot. Might see more red zone looks.
11-Roscoe Parrish: Had a very inconsistent year last year, but did make some big plays. Had long touchdowns against the Lions and Jets, and a huge grab against the Jaguars that set up a game-winning FG. Likely will be used more as a "gadget" player than anything, but his role on offense should expand. He's a playmaker, and we need to get the ball to him as often as possible.
89-Sam Aiken: Will he ever blossom? A player who looks great every pre-season yet never sees playing time on offense. The biggest of Buffalo's wideouts, he could crack the field as a run blocker and possession guy. We need more from him offensively, but he'll make the team based on his special teams ability alone.
Rounding it Out: Jemalle Cornelius, Donovan Morgan. These two youngsters have looked good in OTAs but will likely be victims of Buffalo's depth at wide receiver. Morgan might make the roster over Aiken if he shows enough special teams ability. Cornelius could crack the practice squad.
Longshots: Scott Mayle, Aaron Brown, Johnny Quinn.
Think of Buffalo's passing attack (outside of Evans) as "passing by committee". Evans will be the top target on nearly every route, while the rest of our deep wideout corps will be used on almost a rotational basis. J.P. Losman will be most effective when he's using his wideouts to the best of their abilities, i.e. not forcing the issue to any of these three players. I expect Price, Reed and Parrish to each have similar statistical seasons (40 catches, 500 yards, 3-4 TD). Add those numbers up and you have one heck of a compliment for Evans.