Plenty of fans have placed Tyrod Taylor’s ability as an NFL quarterback under scrutiny. Certain assumptions, such as “Taylor is an inaccurate passer” and “his yards-after-catch average is poor” have been made. Many fans make these assumptions, but fail to recognize the context of the offense and understand what exactly Taylor was asked to execute. Passing offenses are typically tailored to maximize the talent of their offensive players. For example, Greg Roman’s offense was a power run scheme paired with a vertical ‘Air Coryell’ passing system. Roman, and then Lynn, wanted to maximize Taylor’s athletic ability. They focused on his elusiveness and mobility, both in the run game and the pass game. However, I question whether the structure of the offense was beneficial to its QB. Did it maximize Taylor’s strengths and minimize his weaknesses, while also helping him develop long term as a passer? Overall, was Tyrod Taylor placed in a position to be successful under Roman and Lynn? To find out, here at Cover 1 we charted every attempted throw from his 2016 campaign. This allowed us to analyze the Bills’ offense and recognize how it helped and hurt Taylor’s potential as a quarterback.
The chart we created accounts for every type of drop. This includes; 3-step, 5-step, 7-step, roll out, play action inside the pocket, and play action outside the pocket, as well as the screen game. The chart is also broken down further, distinguishing between snaps out of shotgun and those under center. This is important to note, because many of Taylor’s strengths and weaknesses are tied to these categories.
To make the chart easier to understand, let’s walk through some of the more important statistics and explain their significance.
Shotgun vs. Under Center
The Bills decided to go from shotgun a majority (88.2%) of the time this season. However, based on the film and charted statistics, this tendency appeared to hinder Tyrod Taylor as a passer. When Taylor was in shotgun his footwork took a huge hit. His drop was not as sound because he was already starting out 4 to 5 yards from the center. Poor footwork often leads to a poor throwing motion, which in turn leads to inaccurate passing.
Being under center gives a quarterback a sense of purpose — a checklist, if you will. The quarterback must go through his drop, hit his last step, then complete his reads in order to throw in rhythm. This is something that the shotgun cannot simulate. Roman’s offense wants its quarterback standing in the pocket and scanning the entire field. When no one is open, the quarterback is asked to extend the play with his feet. In theory, it makes perfect sense, but for Taylor, it often led to prematurely escaping the pocket. Mentally, Taylor processed this as him standing in the pocket for too long while waiting for routes to develop. If Taylor was under center, then he would have to complete everything in rhythm. He would need to go through his drop and process his progressions all at once. This would allow him to hit his last step on the drop and deliver the football on time. This would lead to cleaner mechanics from the hips down and a more compact, crisp delivery. Ultimately, this would culminate in more accurate passes.
Taylor’s passing accuracy percentage, yards per attempt, completion percentage, and quarterback rating were all significantly worse while he was in shotgun compared to under center. The difference in statistics between the two are not even close. These statistics show how valuable it is to have Taylor throwing from under center.
3-Step Drop – Quick Game
Statistics show Tyrod Taylor is a capable quick-game quarterback. On the season, Taylor completed roughly 65 percent of his throws and had an accuracy rating of 79.1 percent when throwing quick-game off of a 3-step drop. The Bills’ offense motioned 33 percent of the time while they had a quick-game concept play called. The quick game allowed Taylor to diagnose the defensive coverage pre-snap and find the correct receiver to throw the football to post-snap. The quick game is an effective way to pick up a decent amount of yards on early downs. Some of Taylor’s best passing games were when he was efficient in the 3-step passing game (See above chart).
One area in which Tyrod Taylor appeared to be a strong passer, both on tape and statistically, is 7-step drops. The 7-step drop allows for a quarterback to get a deep drop in the pocket. This has helped Taylor for a number of reasons. First, being that Taylor is a shorter quarterback, getting him further away from line of scrimmage allows him to see down the field more clearly. Secondly, a deeper drop allows for a receiver to gain better separation on a defender, thus allowing Taylor to find an open receiver down the field.
Love everything about the play call. Lynn exploiting a mismatch. 7 step from under center and a perfect throw. Incomplete. Lk at the pocket pic.twitter.com/7L6X30HkFj
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) December 26, 2016
If a receiver is unable to get open, then it offers more options to run the ball for a mobile quarterback like Tyrod Taylor. The defense will drop into their zones deeper on the farther routes, opening up running lanes for him underneath.
7 step drop from under center. If TT back next year, we need a top tier RT. That will allow us to do this more. pic.twitter.com/Cn7LhETp3s
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) December 21, 2016
Throughout the season, though, Taylor only attempted 44 7-step drop passes, accounting for just 10 percent of all his throws. Of these 44 attempts, Taylor completed 29 for 368 yards. At 8.4 yards per attempt, this is where Taylor made a good amount of his big plays. Once again, looking at Taylor’s top passing games, he played his best when he was effective in this passing category. During Taylor’s best three games, he threw for 147 yards on nine 7-step drop attempts, completing eight of them.
7 step drop. Shobert with the pressure. Deep comeback to Goodwin. pic.twitter.com/zbjwOYbMO0
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) December 21, 2016
When a screen game is used properly, it can be a great way to nullify a strong pass rush and also move the football down the field. In 2016, the screen game for the Buffalo Bills was virtually non existent. The Bills called 17 screens, which gained a total of 53 yards. At 3.1 yards per play, is a screen play even worth calling? Well, then offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn must not have thought so. In five separate games, the Bills did not call a single screen all game. The screen game is an area that is supposed to help a quarterback. It gets them an easy completion, and in some cases can get a quarterback out of a funk and into a rhythm. In Taylor’s case, it actually ended up hurting him, often times putting the Bills behind the sticks and destroying Taylor’s yards per attempt average.
After analyzing the statistics, it is alarming how the Buffalo Bills decided to use Tyrod Taylor in 2016. It is the job of the coach to put a player in the best possible position to succeed. This can be said for every position in every sport. If the statistics clearly show Taylor was a better quarterback under center, then why was Taylor only under center 10.6 percent of the time? Taylor was a successful quarterback in the 3-step game in 2016. The easy completions were a great way to gain five or more yards per play, and also allowed Taylor to gain some rhythm during the game. Offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn should have done a better job and made this a more integral part of the offense. At times, it was virtually stealing.
On another note, the film and statistics both show Taylor was a better quarterback with a deeper drop from the line of scrimmage. This not only allowed for Taylor to throw the football down the field, but it helps him see the field better and the ability to step up and make a play with his feet when necessary. If this is clearly seen on film and backed up by the statistics, then why only call 7-step drops a measly 53 times all year?
The coaches did not put Tyrod Taylor in a proper position to succeed. His strengths were not used as an asset to the offense, and often times his weaknesses were exploited by his own coaches. With Anthony Lynn out of the picture and the Buffalo Bills’ 2016 offense in the past, Tyrod Taylor could have a very bright future teamed with new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison. Dennison is known for having quarterbacks under center, while also utilizing play action and deep drop backs. This plays right into the areas where Tyrod Taylor excels as a passer. With these two paired together, it is reasonable to expect a much better passing attack out of the Buffalo Bills in 2017.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) February 5, 2017