Note: This is the final installment of Buffalo Rumblings' training camp battles series. Previous installments: RCB, Backup QB, MLB, RG, DT, HB.
This has been a popular topic of debate throughout the long summer months - who will be the Bills' starting wide receiver next to Lee Evans? Most Bills fans have at least an opinion on the matter, whether it be Peerless Price, Josh Reed or Roscoe Parrish. This training camp and pre-season will go a long way towards deciding that winner, but most fans will agree on one thing: whoever starts needs to produce so that defenses can't concentrate too much on Evans, the team's best playmaker. Whoever wins this battle will have a lot of pressure on them to succeed.
The Favorite: Peerless Price (81)
The fact that Price's stat line of 49 catches, 402 yards and 3 touchdowns placed him second on the team - let alone amongst wide receivers - in the passing department speaks volumes about just how much of a one-man show it was last year. That has to change, and fast - and Price should be a big part of that change. Peerless didn't wow anyone with his numbers last year, but his three touchdowns (vs. MIN, at HOU, vs. SD) came in very crucial situations. Those clutch plays may give him an edge over guys like Reed and Parrish in terms of how confident J.P. Losman is in his targets. That confidence, plus his experience and speed, give him the inside track not just to start, but to put up much better numbers.
The Upstart: Josh Reed (82)
The most likely candidate to pass Price on the depth chart during camp is Josh Reed. The "possession" receiver of the group, Reed established a nice rapport with Losman during the second half of last season and became the quarterback's go-to target on short and intermediate routes. He is expected to continue in that capacity this coming season and could put up some solid stats as defenses look to eliminate the deep ball skills of Evans, Price and Roscoe Parrish. Reed may or may not get the starting nod, but it's very likely he ends up the team's second-leading receiver based solely on his role within the offense.
The Darkhorse: Roscoe Parrish (11)
As I mentioned earlier this off-season in this article, Parrish has the potential to really come into his own this year as a gadget receiver. This will be his third year in the league, and that's typically the year that receivers begin to show the type of production you can expect from them for the rest of their career. Parrish will likely not get a starting nod due to the caliber of his competition, but there is a niche to be had for Parrish in this offense. He is one of the most elusive players in football, so it's going to be important for Steve Fairchild to try to get him the ball in space during games. If the team can do that, it will really further develop the versatility of an already talented corps.
The Longshot: Sam Aiken (89)
"Longshot" should read "No Shot", because Aiken is not going to start. It is important to note, however, that it's distinctly possible we're going to see Aiken on the field more this season. He is the team's thickest receiver, making him one of the better run-blocking options at the position, and he also has talent as a receiver (though it rarely shows up on the field). I wouldn't mind seeing Aiken get a few reps as a red zone receiver, where his size and athleticism could allow him to win a few jump balls.
Predicting the Winner
In the end, this is Price's to job to lose - and he won't lose it. He will likely start all 16 games, barring injury. But I see the Bills' offense being a "receiver by committee" situation, where Price/Reed/Parrish end up having similar stats in their unique roles in the offense. It may be a figurehead position, therefore, but Price will be the starter once again next to Evans.
Poll Results: Agreed! Price Starts
Bills fans have once again weighed in, and agree - Peerless Price will be the starter.
Who should complement Lee Evans as a starting WR?
Peerless Price - 18 votes (50%)
Josh Reed - 7 votes (19%)
Roscoe Parrish - 8 votes (22%)
Sam Aiken - 3 votes (8%)