Months ago, the national media and fans alike loved the pairing of Tyrod Taylor and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison. They touted how the run game and play action rollout passing game suit Taylor’s strengths.
They weren’t wrong; Taylor is no doubt a dual threat, and one of the most dangerous in the NFL. He’s a guy that has to be respected along the perimeter, whether he is looking to pass . . .
Two weeks into the preseason and after a bad showing versus the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense, the narrative is that Taylor is now a poor fit in Dennison’s offense. What prompted the immediate shift to the ‘he is not a fit’ narrative?
The Sammy Watkins trade? Anquan Boldin’s retirement? Of course, it is natural to think that losing weapons like those would affect the offense and passing game as a whole. After all, Tyrod lost one of the most dangerous threats in the league. Sammy was really Tyrod’s crutch. Concept not open? Oh, look, Sammy has a step or Sammy is singled up. I’ll chuck it deep to him. Watkins was the only receiver Taylor trusted, so yes, that will hurt the offense’s ability to create explosive plays (and Taylor’s fantasy statistics).
He’s gone now, though, and he isn’t coming back. He was also gone last season for eight games, and Tyrod was left for dead, so to speak. The Bills trotted out Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Justin Hunter, and Walter Powell at WR for most of last year.
Not having Watkins as a crutch forced then offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn to tweak the offense. He needed to keep the dominant run game in place, but also to find a way to be more efficient through the air. This meant less reliance on the deep passing game. The boom-or-bust offense put the defense and the team in tough spots. The two sides didn’t complement each other well at all. In the run game Lynn shifted to more traditional zone run concepts, which were not typical of the Greg Roman’s offense over the years. Obviously, they still dominated on the ground.
Zone blocking Iso Weak
Gillislee is a natural zone runner. Bounce/Bang not there. Reads the NT, bends it back, squares shoulders, protects the ball, breaks tackles pic.twitter.com/SNLoKsMbaz
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) January 25, 2017
But the most important change in regards to Tyrod Taylor was as a passer. Lynn took a different approach than Roman.
Greg Roman was considered by many as the mad genius because he would spend countless hours drawing up exotic plays against opponents instead of laying a foundation and building up his pass game.
This method doesn’t teach QBs or develop them.
Lynn knew this, and when he took over he stripped the offense down. He began to lay a foundation for Taylor. He established basic concepts for Tyrod to learn, repeat, and develop. I am by no means saying that the blame is on the offensive scheme or Roman. The shift by Lynn said even more about where Taylor was as a player who was in his sixth season.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) February 24, 2017
Many of the concepts Lynn called were rooted in the west coast offense and/or concepts that were based on timing, footwork, etcetera (e.g. snag, spot, smash, mesh, drive, sail, levels, and drive concepts). They were very simple, methodical concepts, slightly tweaked to the personnel and formations of the modern offense. Once Lynn committed to repping Taylor in these concepts, Taylor could then learn from his mistakes.
Did Taylor still struggle? Sure, he does have limitations. He lacks field vision, accuracy to certain areas, and he trusts his legs more than his arm, just to name a few. At times he is gun shy, fails to throw guys open, or makes anticipated throws, and it hurts the offense. But as these numbers show, it’s those throws that he doesn’t make that are the issues, not the throws he does.
The chart shows you Taylor’s numbers to the short and intermediate area in ’15 and ’16 (completion percentage in top right). How did they look last year without Sammy? How do his numbers compare to other QBs who have played in Dennison’s system?
Remember that Kubiak and Dennison wanted Taylor in this system a couple of years back. McDermott and this staff wanted him in the very same fashion this year. He may only be here for this year as a bridge QB, but don’t be so quick to label him a poor fit when the designer of this offense basically hand-picked him. Don’t label him a guy who will fail because he doesn’t have Watkins, as he lacked Watkins for 8 games last season. He was left to make due with guys who, from top to bottom, had less talent and were less of a fit for what Lynn wanted to do in those concepts. I believe his dual threat ability fits rather well in Dennison’s offense.
Don’t forget he was an integral piece to the 10th-highest scoring offense in the league last season, doing a lot of the things Dennison and company will ask of him in 2017.
⚡️ “Some of Dennison's offense”https://t.co/VrVjhTatZY
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) August 21, 2017