If there is one thing we know that Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane agree on, it is their infatuation with position versatility. It’s the lifeblood of a defense that finished second in points per game allowed at 17.9, 6th in yards per game against at 319.1, and they were fourth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average). The co-pilots of Buffalo’s football roster want their chess pieces to be more do-it-all queens and less stuck-in-the-mud pawns. Enter free agent signee ‘safety’ Taylor Rapp.
“He’s going to be a movable chess piece and a part of the defense. Taron’s backup, Poyer’s backup, Micah’s backup, Dime LB, All ST’s units,” said @GregTompsett.
Greg nailed it with this evaluation. Throughout training camp, Rapp has lined up at both safety positions, filled in for Jordan Poyer during a vet rest day, played linebacker, and entered the slot as the nickel in place of Taron Johnson. During the Bills Blue and Red Scrimmage, Rapp was once again deployed everyone, most notably playing LB in dime packages. This led many to call it a ‘thicc dime” with the 6ft, 208lb sneaking into the box. No matter how you play the pieces, having a guy like Rapp in McDermott’s system is a move Buffalo hopes leads to CHECK and MATE against their opponents.
“Rapp is used in a variety of ways already. Physical presence being felt (closed down on Reggie Gilliam on a flat route and dropped Gilliam when he went for the PBU. And it’s not easy to drop Gilliam). John Butler spoke about his versatility and how much they value that. If Dodson wins the other LB spot, I think that means we see a lot of Rapp as the dime LB,” added @Pro__Ant.
Butler said it best, “I think the word versatile comes to mind…we value secondary players that can do multiple things and play multiple positions.” Here’s the full quote:
— Anthony Cover 1 (@Pro__Ant) August 1, 2023
To learn more about what Rapp could and should be for the Bills, let’s look back at who he was for the Rams. First, going back to positional versatility, Pro Football Reference listed him as a strong safety in 2019/2020, a free safety in 2021, and a defensive back in 2022.
That’s all fine and dandy, but what about his stats? If he is helping in the run, good! Rapp had a missed tackle rate against the run of just 2.9%, or seventh best in the league for safeties with at least 20% of team snaps, per PFF (Pro Football Focus). His run defense grade was 82.3, or ninth best in the NFL. PFF has him missing just one tackle in the run game in 2022.
But Greg, what about against the pass? Are you hiding those stats from us? No! Is Rapp a top-10 safety against the pass like he is the run? No, but it isn’t some insane fall-off either. He allowed just 7.5 yards per reception, good enough for third-best in 2022. His pair of picks were tied for 29th most among safeties. His PFF coverage grade of 72.9 placed him tied for 21st.
Rapp is also a more than willing tackler. His 70 solo tackles came in tied for 19th. PFF’s tackle grade of 84.6 was good enough for 13th.
Put it all together, and this is a heck of a one-year security blanket for the Bills, who, as you know, lost both Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer for chunks of last season. If the 25-year-old were to ball out in 2023, he could also see himself in line to get a longer contract with Buffalo, as Beane might need to replace both Hyde and Poyer in the not-so-distant future.
Feature Image Credit: Harry Scull Jr./The Buffalo News