AFCE: Punt Returns? Top Bill-ing to Parrish

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This is the latest in a series of nine Radar entries over the next five weeks detailing trends in the AFC East, downward tendencies each division team wants to correct for the coming season and upward strides that each team wants to continue into 2009:    

The best of the Buffalo Bills often is special. Such has been the case for the past two seasons with Roscoe Parrish.

Parrish is the Bills' 5'9", 171-pound punt returner par excellence. He'd love an opportunity to break into the Buffalo WR rotation, and with the arrival of Terrell Owens, he may well factor into some new packages and formations.

But it seems unlikely Parrish will be asked to give up his return duties. As ST coach Bobby April has said, "In my mind, there's no better punt returner than Roscoe."

Parrish has demonstrated that the past two seasons. In 2007 he reeled off an average of 16.3 yards on each of his 27 returns (with only two fair catches, we might add). Then last season he "slumped" to 15.3 on 21 returns.

First and foremost, those two seasons have rocketed Parrish past Chicago's Devin Hester, his former U. of Miami teammate, and into the title of the best NFL punt returner of all times based on career average. His 13.96 yards per return take over the top rung held last year by Hester, who fell off last year after averaging 14.06 yards per return his first two seasons in the NFL.

"When I get an opportunity on punt return I just try to make the best of it and I always look forward to the touchdown to be honest with you," Parrish has said. "They say you've got to get the first down, but I think that's automatic with me because you've got to have that confidence on punt return. I'm always trying to look for the touchdown. That's just my motto when I have the ball in my hands."

Just as remarkable is what Parrish has done for Buffalo as a team in the PR category. Take 2007-08, for instance. In those two seasons the Bills have averaged 15.4 yards per return. Mostly that has been on Parrish's returns, although he got some help last year from Fred Jackson and Leodis McKelvin and in 2007 from current Jet Jim Leonhard.

That figure is the best by any team for two seasons combined since 1948-49, when the Cardinals, then in Chicago and led by Jerry Davis and Charlie Trippi, averaged 18.7 yards per return.

Here are the top seven two-season averages by team in the NFL and AFL since 1960:

 Team Seasons PRs-Yds Avg Primary Returner
 1. Buffalo 2007-08 61-940 15.4 Roscoe Parrish
 2. Kansas City 2002-03 62-932 15.0 Dante Hall
 3. N.Y. Titans 1961-62 51-760 14.9 Dick Christy
 4. Baltimore 2000-01 93-1276 13.7 Jermaine Lewis
 5. Kansas City 2003-04 57-774 13.6 Dante Hall
 6t. N.Y. JETS 2002-03 59-796 13.5 Santana Moss
 6t. N.Y. Titans 1960-61 42-568 13.5 L.Burton-D.Christy

Whatever positions Parrish plays, Jets coaches Mike Westhoff and Kevin O'Dea, their punter (at the moment a battle between Reggie Hodges and rookie T.J. Conley) and cover men Wallace Wright and Larry Izzo, et al., know they'll have their work cut out trying to keep Parrish penned up in the division rivals' two meetings in 2009.

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