Tyrod Taylor: In-Depth Look

After restocking in the draft, the Buffalo Bills locked up Tyrod Taylor and his long ball to keep him in charge of their offenseAidan Curran breaks down what we can expect from the QB.

After earning the Buffalo Bills’ starting quarterback job and leading them to an 8-8 record last season, Tyrod Taylor looks to take the next step and prove to the Bills that he is the franchise quarterback they have sought for so many years. After agreeing to a six-year, $92 million extension with Buffalo on Friday, it is time for Taylor to reward the Bills’ faith in him by becoming the elite quarterback they think he can be and helping Buffalo extinguish its long playoff drought.

Taylor does a lot of things well, and proved last season that he can stay mistake-free and do enough to help his team win. Taylor is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL at throwing the deep ball, while also flashing the mobility to escape pressure and gain yards when a play breaks down. However, the six-year veteran struggles with his footwork on the run and can get lazy with his throwing mechanics. A lack of consistency – and lack of experience as an NFL starter – is what holds him back from entering the top tier of quarterbacks in the league.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]The Deep Ball

Taylor’s ability to throw the deep ball is probably his greatest asset. From Week 1, Taylor showed an ability to drive the ball downfield and hit his receivers in stride. This was partly influenced by Buffalo’s run-heavy offense, which led to a lot of single-high safety coverage looks from opposing defenses. But even with a safety coming over the top, Taylor showed the ability to drop the ball in perfectly to his receivers.

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With the Kansas City Chiefs showing a Cover 1 defense, Sammy Watkins (#14) is out wide on the left boundary, with cornerback Sean Smith (#21) in press-man technique at the line of scrimmage. Watkins fakes a step to the outside and gets Smith to overcommit, allowing him to go inside and streak past the aggressive Smith on the 9 route. Free safety Eric Berry (#29) sees Watkins has half a step on Smith and starts to run over to help, but Taylor drops the ball perfectly over the outstretched hand of Smith to Watkins before Berry can get there, and Watkins hauls in the over-the-shoulder catch for the touchdown.

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Taylor and Watkins’s chemistry was fully on display in the Week 12 matchup with the Chiefs. The two Bills players connected again in the game on a long pass, this time against a Cover 3 look from Kansas City. Watkins and wide receiver Chris Hogan (#15) are stacked to the left of the formation. At the snap, Watkins runs a 9 route, while Hogan runs a post. With Smith playing one of the outside corner positions in the Cover 3 defense, Watkins runs up and out like he is running a corner route, which makes Smith, who is playing with outside leverage, turn around. Watkins then races by the turning Smith. Hogan’s post route gives Berry a moment of hesitation, which is enough for Taylor to drop in another perfect deep throw to Watkins before Berry can get there.

Besides the perfect placement of the throw, what should also be noted about this play by Taylor is his pocket movement. Chiefs defensive end Tamba Hali (#91) beats Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn (#77) on a speed rush to the outside, but Taylor notices this, and moves a couple of steps to his left to avoid Hali. This gives Taylor a clean pocket to throw from, making his throw to Watkins easier.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Footwork

One area that Taylor needs to improve upon is his footwork, which is inconsistent at best, whether Taylor is in the pocket or on the run, and led to a number of unforced errors last season.

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In Week 2 against the New England Patriots, Taylor takes the shotgun snap with the defense sending four pass rushers and dropping seven into coverage. The Patriots defensive line flushes Taylor out of the pocket to his left. All of his receivers are covered well, but he forces the ball to Watkins on the deep post route. On his throw, though, Taylor doesn’t set his feet and doesn’t square his hips to the target. He leaves his hips open and doesn’t point his front foot at the target, causing him to lose balance and sail the pass past Watkins and into the hands of free safety Duron Harmon (#30).

Taylor has, however, shown the ability to complete passes while on the move.

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On this play against the Jets in Week 10, the Bills offense is in an empty formation with tight end Charles Clay (#85) in the slot. The Jets, showing a two-deep safety look, go into Cover 4 at the snap and only rush four. Jets defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson (#96) beats a double team and crashes the pocket, forcing Taylor to leave the pocket and scramble to his right. Taylor sees Clay open on the slant route with a step on the linebacker covering him, and fires it in while evading the defensive end in pursuit. On this play, Taylor does a good job keeping his eyes downfield while running toward the sideline, with the ball held up toward his ear to reduce the time it takes him to get the ball out. The QB keeps his balance despite the pressure and avoids fading away from the defender, which would cause the pass to carry to the right more than Taylor intends. Instead, Taylor throws a nice pass into a tiny window to Clay on the broken play.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Poise in the Pocket

Taylor’s development as a pocket quarterback was one of the highlights of his season. At the beginning of the year, Taylor acted unsure in the pocket, and was quick to flee at the slightest hint of pressure. An example of this was in Week 1 against Indianapolis.

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With the Colts in a single-high safety look, they show a double-A gap blitz before the snap, but rush four at the snap. Jerrell Freeman (#50) rushes the A gap, while D’Qwell Jackson (#52) drops into coverage from the edge. Freeman blows up the play and makes Taylor step up in the pocket to avoid the pressure. Instead of re-setting his feet and looking for an open receiver, Taylor takes off, failing to spot Robert Woods (#10) wide open deep down the field on the 9 route. Taylor winds up gaining 6 or 7 yards on the play, but takes a punishing hit while he slides to the turf, which is not a trade-off the Bills will be happy with.

His growth as a pocket passer is evident over the course of the season though, and can be witnessed in this play against the Chiefs in Week 12.

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Similar to the play against the Colts in Week 1 above, Taylor is flushed out of the pocket by a penetrating defender on the play action pass. Again he climbs the pocket to avoid the pressure – but this time he looks at his options and sees Clay running across the field and hits him for the 2-yard gain. It’s not a big play, but it shows how Taylor’s trust in his receivers grew to the point where he didn’t run with the ball immediately upon seeing pressure and, instead, took the time to let his receivers get open to make a positive play to help his team.

Taylor’s overall improvement from Week 1 to Week 17 is something that should give Bills fans hope for the coming season. If he continues on this upward trend and can eliminate some of his errors, there is no doubt the Bills’ investment in Taylor as their long-term quarterback will pay off.

Follow @ARCurran_28 on Twitter. Check out his other work here, Rex Ryan’s blitzing schemes, and the Patriots versatile defensive line.

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