Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor had what many people considered a down season in 2016. Fans were largely disappointed because it was a season in which they expected him to take a big step forward. The organization maintained continuity up front, and they were in their second season in Greg Roman’s offense.
Well, as is often the case in Buffalo, things didn’t go as planned. After their first two games, the team decided to fire Greg Roman and promote running backs coach Anthony Lynn to offensive coordinator. He was appointed to a position, a role, as a play-caller that he had NEVER held before. What made things even more difficult were that he was running an offense that he didn’t design.
Lynn decided to scale back some of the playbook, simplify things for Taylor so that the offense could just make plays. Rather than pair the dominating run game with an Air Coryell, vertical passing game, Lynn wanted to make the offense more efficient.
He attempted to lay a foundation, a passing game comprised of a base set of concepts, rather than trying to outsmart defenses week to week. It was a smart move. The defense wasn’t really stopping anyone, so an explosive offense wouldn’t complement the defense. You saw a lot more progression reads by utilizing some familiar concepts, such as the Spot concept, Smash concept, Mesh concept, Levels concept, and even the Switch concept.
Taylor wasn’t asked to do much. The strict adherence to the structure seemed to remain in place. One could argue that it was due to Taylor’s lack of mental processing post snap, and honestly, I would agree with that. His field vision from the pocket is average, but the passing scheme was, in my opinion, vanilla. It was an offense that operated much too often out of the shotgun. According to NFLSavant.com, the Bills were in the gun 72% of the time. That was far too often, in my opinion, because one of my biggest gripes with Taylor is his mechanics.
In a Roman designed offense, the quarterback is an athlete that hits the top of his drop, scans the field, and, if nothing is there, takes off. The footwork and the depth of the drop don’t necessarily correspond with the depth of the receivers’ routes, so the QB is just standing in the pocket waiting for things to develop.
It’s the type of offense that needs to have an athletic QB, so that if no one is open or the protections break down, then the QB can take off. There’s nothing wrong with that. Many offenses nowadays operate with that type of structure, but a guy like Taylor needs to be under center more. It helps him focus on his drop and his footwork — you know, the mechanics.
It also allows him to throw in rhythm, to go through his progressions and reads in tune with his footwork. Taking snaps under center just helps him with his overall consistency.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) February 8, 2017
The second year starter dropped back to pass 529 times and attempted 426 passes. He only completed 269 of those passes, which is a 61.7% completion percentage. Although his dropbacks (2015-467) and attempts (2015-380) were up in 2016, his completion percentage dropped two percent.
His efficiency as a passer is something that many fans bring up. According to Pro Football Focus, of all QBs that started 60% of their snaps in 2016, Taylor ranks 19th in completion percentage, right in front of Mariota, Palmer, Winston and Rivers.
Even one of his strengths, the deep ball, failed him this past season. In 2015, he threw 12 touchdown passes over 20+ yards, compared with a mere six in 2016.
His struggles should have been no surprise, considering Sammy Watkins, who caught eight deep ball TDs in 2015, only played in eight games and participated in 75.7% of the snaps in those games. Watkins only mustered ONE deep ball touchdown in 2016 and was targeted 11 times, making four receptions for 173 yards.
How does that stack up to 2015? In 2015, Watkins was targeted 34 times, hauling in 16 receptions, 606 yards, and eight TDs. That could partly explain why Tyrod’s yards/attempt dropped from 8 (5th) to 6.93 (24th). Consider this: when Watkins was in the lineup, Taylor’s yards/attempt was 7.8 (6th), whereas without Watkins it was 6.3 (29th). Even his accuracy rate was affected. It was 74.9% (13th) when Sammy was in the lineup and a 71.3% (25th) when Sammy was not dressed. Not having Sammy Watkins for half of the season no doubt had an effect on Taylor, and a significant one, at that. He is the only receiver that Tyrod trusts. Sammy is so dynamic that he changes how defenses choose to game-plan against Taylor and the offense.
Defenses only had to worry about the Bills’ run game last season. Without a true #1 wide receiver to dictate coverage, defenses could stack the box, keep 22 eyes on #5, all while congesting the middle of the field. This severely limited the passing game, but the offense still was able to put up a fair amount of points thanks to a run game spearheaded by LeSean McCoy and Tyrod himself.
With a lucrative contract option on the line, a dominant run game, a vanilla passing scheme minus Watkins, and a leaky defense, Taylor didn’t force the issue. He played it tight to the vest, rarely threw into tight windows, and was coached into half field reads on three man routes.
With how things transpired on the field and the structure of Tyrod’s contract, the front office now has to make the difficult decision of whether they want to move forward with him.
In order to do so, they have to not only evaluate his play, but also measure how his strengths and weaknesses fit the Rick Dennison‘s incumbent offensive system.
They have to ask themselves: was he making good or bad decisions on the field? Was he putting the offense in situations to score? To win? Or were his conservative nature and passing deficiencies holding the offense back? And how will that translate into new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison’s system?
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) January 24, 2017
With all of that said, let’s take a look at the 12 interceptions Tyrod has thrown over the past two years. Here is a recap of the picks he threw in 2015:
But to get an idea on the decisions that led to his six interceptions this past season, here is a video breakdown:
Tyrod Taylor has been one of the Bills’ most polarizing figures since winning the job in 2015, but that doesn’t mean he should be the Bills’ starting quarterback going forward. What the organization and fans should ask is if they can win with Tyrod Taylor as a quarterback in Rick Dennison’s system.
That answer should be coming in the next couple of weeks, and I expect there to be an uproar, regardless of what the Bills decide.