Bills Breakout Nominees

How serious is Marshawn Lynch's alleged hit-and-run? Which receiver will particularly benefit from Turk Schonert's renovated offense? Who has the best shot of emerging out of a mediocre tight end group? All of these questions could have three players playing prominent roles in Buffalo's offense this season...

Fred Jackson-RB

Right now, no one is talking. Not the cops. Not the team. Not Marshawn Lynch.

The calm before the storm? Maybe.

If Lynch was indeed driving the SUV that dinged a pedestrian last Saturday at 3:30 a.m. just outside Buffalo's bar district, look now. The Bills could be in deep trouble. The moment law enforcement punishment is handed down, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will interfere and surely will exercise his no-nonsense approach.

First, leaving the scene of an accident (which results in personal injury) without reporting it is a Class A misdemeanor punishable with up to a year in jail and a fine of $500 to $1,000, according to state Assemblyman Andrew P. Raia.

So at the very worst, Lynch is in jail when the Bills compete this season, although it's not a secret that pro athletes finagle jail time to fit their schedule. Still, if this hit-and-run is as ugly as possible – an intoxicated Lynch behind the wheel – then the team's biggest offensive star could eventually be let loose. Of course, that's the worst, worst, worst case scenario. But if the city cameras at that corner of Chippewa Street reveal as such…hold tight.

All of which instantly extrapolates the value of Lynch's backup, Fred Jackson.

Lynch or no Lynch, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound wrecking ball Jackson will be an integral part of Buffalo's offense in 2008. In Turk Schonert's offense, look for the backs to become involved in the passing much more frequently. Jackson flashed big play ability in the open field last year with 22 catches for 190 yards in limited snaps. When Lynch was sidelined, the no-name from Coe College stepped in seamlessly with an 82-yard, pounding effort at Washington and then 115 yards on 15 carries against Miami.

He was instant offense on an offense that would have struggled to put up points in the Arena Football League

Still with limited explosive skill position players, Jackson must be utilized on a game-to-game basis – the elusive wild card that drives defensive coordinators crazy. And if Lynch's hit-and-run does reach Code Red, Jackson will be vaulted into the center stage of Buffalo's offense.

For more on Jackson check out:

Roscoe Parrish-WR

Each year, Bills fans are teased a little more.

At times, Parrish looks like something shot out of a cannon. Speed, unmatched. A 5-foot-9, 170-pound X-Factor. His reception count has gradually increased from 15 to 23 to 35 in his three NFL season. That's encouraging.

At times, Parrish is the best player on the field and can single-handedly change a game. Two years ago against Jacksonville – which was fresh off a 26-10 beatdown over the N.Y. Giants – Parrish took over. He took a punt return 82 yards for a touchdown and then made a crucial, tip-toe 30-yard catch at the sideline with 17 seconds left to set up Rian Lindell's game-winning 42-yarder.

Roscoe Parrish celebrates a touchdown against New England last season.
Getty Images

Last season, as the team's No. 3 wide receiver, Parrish was average in the passing game. He finished with 35 receptions, 352 yards and one touchdown. This 10.1 yards per catch is far too low for a player with his deep-threat ability. But now with rookie James Hardy, who is nine inches taller than Parrish, drawing defensive backs, Parrish could flourish in the slot. The slower, but more consistent Josh Reed will most likely assume the No. 3 spot, but Parrish will help spread open Buffalo's oh-so predictable offense. More four wide receiver sets will keep defenses honest and allow the heady Trent Edwards to dissect coverages with more ease. On shallow drags, hooks, curls and the occasional bomb, Parrish could emerge as the sparkplug Buffalo's passing game is starving for.

Schonert wants to put more fear in defenses next season. And fear starts with No. 11.

Derek Fine-TE

Buffalo could have taken any tight end they wanted in April's draft.

Fred Davis, Dustin Keller, Martellus Bennett, John Carlson…each would have started from day one in the Bills' hodgepodge semblance of a tight end unit.

But the Bills waited. The front office opted for a shutdown corner, a receiver on stilts, a pass-rushing end and then another cornerback before taking a tight end.

By default, Kansas fourth-rounder Derek Fine could make an immediate impact with Buffalo. Incumbent Robert Royal hasn't shown much since joining the Bills, only catching 48 passes in two seasons. Don't expect a sudden surge, either. In his five-year career, Royal has never registered 250 yards in a season. Free agent pickup Courtney Anderson may finally reach the potential he flashed in Oakland, but then again, he bounced around four of the league's worst teams last season.

Fine couldn't have asked for a better situation. The field is wide open, his quarterback loves locating the tight end and the offensive coordinator has promised to push the ball downfield more. Although he may never become an effective blocker, Fine is a savvy route runner. In the Jayhawks' gangbuster offense last fall, Fine seemed to always find the cracks in zone defenses.

Versatile enough to slide into the backfield as an H-back also, it will be difficult to keep Fine on the bench.

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