Tyrod Taylor’s Success vs. Coverage Schemes in 2017

01/06/2018
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Not a day went by this season in which I didn’t get some sort of mention on social media in regards to Tyrod Taylor. He’s a very polarizing player. He’s one of the most dynamic players to step on the field every Sunday, but also a guy who at the same time struggles to execute some of the simplest tasks asked of a traditional passer in the NFL.

His numbers have always been average. In 2016, Taylor registered a 61.7% completion percentage, 3,023 yards, 17 touchdowns and only six interceptions. This season there was a slight dip due to several factors, including a drop in offensive talent, a new scheme, questionable play calling, etcetera. But he finished the regular season with a 62.6% completion percentage, 2,799 yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Nothing to write home about, right? It’s fair to say that Tyrod is who he is. Some days he is a below average quarterback, and some days he can be a good quarterback. Usually, that general label can be predicted by how long he holds the ball on Sunday or his inability to ‘throw into tight windows’.

This got me wondering: what were the predominant coverages that Taylor was seeing in 2017? This is not something that I track, so I called on my friends at Sports Info Solutions (SIS), and the results caught me off guard.

A little background on SIS. SIS charts every NFL (and FBS) game, tracks advanced stats from every angle. They work with several NFL teams and are the data provider for Football Outsiders. They have created an advanced database that allows you to filter data on dozens of levels from personnel packages to route types, run types, coverage types, and more.

According to their analysts, Taylor has produced the following:

Taylor vs. Man Coverage

2016: 112-of-208 (53.8%), 1247 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT, 75.9 QBRating

2017: 106-of-205 (51.7%), 1327 yards, 12 TD, 2 INT, 87.6 QBRating

 

Taylor vs. Zone Coverage

2016: 139-of-202 (68.8%), 1663 yards, 12 TD, 3 INT, 107.3 QBRating

2017: 118-of-164 (72.0%), 1201 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 94.1 QBRating

 

Anything catch your eye?

Let’s break it down. Zone and Man coverages are two very big buckets. Zone coverage encompasses Cover 2, Cover 3, Cover 4 and Cover 6. Man coverage is Cover 0, Cover 1, and Cover 2 man. I left out some other coverages that SIS charts, such as Combo coverages and Coverages vs Screens, because the attempts were much lower.

But the drastic change in touchdowns vs. certain coverages from one season to the next really jumped out at me. Considering the talent that the offense has lost, the scheme changes and the play calling struggles, scoring 12 touchdowns vs. Man coverage seems like a major feat.

We have seen Next Gen Statistics about how poorly the Bills’ receivers separate, or that Taylor is one of the least aggressive quarterbacks when it comes to throwing into tight windows, and there are truths to those statements.

But we never hear the numbers on the backend. Ok, he throws into tight coverage at the 4th-lowest rate, but when he does what happens? Passing into man coverage is throwing into tight windows. Of course, there are varying degrees of tight coverage. But accuracy vs. man coverage also has to be pinpoint, especially when guys ‘aren’t separating’. If the WRs struggle to separate, then Taylor’s TD numbers vs. Man coverage are eye popping, in my opinion.

While Taylor hasn’t hit as many home runs deep as he has in prior years, where the scheme and receivers may have helped him improve is in the red zone. The area where the field is compressed, the plays happen quicker, the windows are smaller. According to SIS, nine of Taylors touchdowns vs. man were in the red zone compared to four last season.

These statistics don’t tell the whole story, but they do give you a peek at how the scheme and talent have shaped this offense and in turn how defenses are playing versus it.

So add these statistics to your evaluation of Taylor this coming offseason. Evaluate his numbers, the talent around him, the adversity he has faced and, of course, the scheme.

How do you think he has handled himself? Are you bringing him back next season?

 

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