ORCHARD PARK - One of the many question marks at the beginning of the season for the Buffalo Bills was the lack of experience at the receiving corps.
Alongside Lee Evans, who was going to be the No. 2 receiver after Terrell Owens and Josh Reed were not retained?
Was it going to be the much-talked about Stevie Johnson who hasn't sniffed the field the past two years? Was it going to be Roscoe Parrish who had just three catches for 34 yards last year?
As the season has progressed, the answer was yes to both those questions.
Entering today's game against the Detroit Lions, Johnson has 41 catches for 554 yards and six touchdowns.
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Five of those touchdowns came in consecutive games, pitting him in elite company as one of only three other Bills receivers to accomplish the feat. The other three include Eric Moulds, Elbert "Golden Wheels" Dubenion and Evans. Meanwhile, Parrish was already having a career year with his 33 catches for 400 yards and two touchdowns.
Unfortunately, the bad luck of the Bills continued last week as Parrish injured his hand and was placed on injured reserve, ending his season.
"Roscoe was a big part of our offense," Evans said. "He was doing a lot of good things for us like he's done in the past, even on special teams. So, he'll certainly be missed, not just by his play, but for who he is. It's a big loss for us. But I think some of the young guys have been seeing him and are prepped to step up and try to make some plays themselves. I'll be excited to see them play."
Those young guys Evans is referring to include undrafted rookie free agents Donald Jones and David Nelson who will both be used as slot receivers in Parrish's absence.
"Well, anytime you lose a guy that's had that many big plays, that many catches, it hurts," Bills coach Chan Gailey said. "He was obviously playing because he was doing a good job. You don't replace him that immediately. We'll try our best with Donald Jones and David Nelson and let them both play and let them create what input they can. Hopefully they'll step up. Roscoe did a nice job while he had the opportunity. Now, it's the chance for somebody else."
With Johnson becoming one of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's primary receivers as of late and Parrish out, Johnson's productivity in the offense may increase.
"Possibly," he said. "Someone is going to have to step up. It may be me, Donald, Dave or Lee. Someone is going to get more. Someone has had to step up since the beginning of the season anyway. All we had was Lee. Someone had to step up. It's the same situation now for the other guys."
Another key area the Bills have a void at with Parrish out is at punt return. Parrish has three return touchdowns in his NFL career on punt returns. He is tied for third in NFL history with a 12.2 average. Filling those shoes will be rookie running back C.J. Spiller, who returned punts in college at Clemson. Spiller has returned kick offs this season.
"On kick returns you know where the coverage is at," Spiller said describing the differences between kick returns and punt returns. "You see the coverage. Punt returns you have to keep your eye on the ball and still have a feel of where the defender is at so you can fair catch it or run. They are two totally different things. The main thing is securing the ball."
Today will the question of how good this receiving corp is will be answered.