The Buffalo Bills found a diamond in the rough when they signed quarterback Tyrod Taylor during the offseason. The 26-year old had just one career start under his belt prior to agreeing to a three-year deal worth $3.35 million. Taylor entered training camp as a mystery. The former Virginia Tech star accumulated 9,213 total yards and 67 touchdowns during his collegiate career before being selected in the sixth-round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens, where he sat behind Joe Flacco for the last four seasons.
Taylor secured the starting job with ease, showing poise in the pocket, a strong arm, accuracy and the ability to extend plays with his legs when needed. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman employs a run-first offense that sets up the passing game through play-action and vertical concepts. In a run-oriented system, the quarterback needs to be efficient and take care of the football, two things Tyrod Taylor has been stellar at throughout the 2015 season.
In 13 games this year, Taylor has exceeded all expectations, completing 63.6% of his passes for 2,853 yards (his 8.1 yards-per-attempt ranks fifth), throwing 20 touchdowns and just six interceptions, adding another 517 yards and three touchdowns on 93 rushing attempts. His 100.7 QB Rating is fifth-best in the league.
Taylor’s efficiency as a passer has been impressive, considering that 19-percent of his pass attempts travel at least 20-yards downfield, the highest percentage among quarterbacks this year. On those deep passes he’s ninth in accuracy percentage, connecting with receivers 28 times for 1,014 yards, 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions. His 12 touchdowns on deep balls rank second, trailing only Russell Wilson.
This level of quarterback play hasn’t been seen by Buffalo Bills fans in a loooong time, arguably since Drew Bledsoe’s 2004 season or Doug Flutie’s 1999 campaign. However, a porous defense, an enormous amount of penalties and a series of injuries that have ravaged every position group throughout the offense, the Bills are eliminated from the playoffs and sit with a 7-8 record.
Some fans, analysts and media members are already questioning Taylor’s future potential with the team. Former Bills’ GM Bill Polian stated that he “wasn’t a franchise quarterback” and reminded him more of a “small Frank Reich” than a Jim Kelly-caliber player.
Let’s take a step back here and re-evaluate what exactly we’re expecting out of a quarterback these days. In the social media age our attention spans are short and we’re always seeking the next big thing, a purchase of the new iPhone despite already having a perfectly fine model of the previously released one.
Tyrod Taylor’s Positives
The shift in NFL rules to inflate passing and receiving numbers have also led many to go down the “game-manager” route when discussing Tyrod Taylor. After all, his 2,853 passing yards rank 26th in the league. However, due to the Bills’ run-oriented offense Taylor averages 29.7 passing attempts per game, while the league average is 36.7.
Taylor has attempted 35 or more passes in just four of his starts this season, all in games that they trailed for the majority and eventually lost. If you adjust Taylor’s passing statistics to match the league average in pass attempts, his 2015 stat line would be as follows: 282-of-434 for 3,515 yards (17th), 25 touchdowns (t-17th) and 7 interceptions (t-24th fewest) in 13 games. Not too shabby.
Tyrod Taylor’s Negatives
Now, Taylor is not completely without fault. He’s got a bit of a tendency to hold on to the ball too long at times—ProFootballFocus directly credits Taylor with 8 of the 34 times he’s been sacked, in addition to one QB hit and eight hurries—so the offensive line can’t be a crutch at all times. He’s also missed some open receivers, overthrown some easy passes and has occasionally thrown the ball too late to his receivers—particularly when working the middle of the field—resulting in incompletions. But what young quarterback doesn’t make these mistakes during their development?
General Manager Doug Whaley was on WGR550 this morning, and he explained that in order for Taylor to make the next step in his development, he’ll need to improve his ability to work the middle of the field. He stated that opposing defenses have given him the sideline throws in order to clog the passing lanes between the hashes.
On throws outside the hashes, Taylor completed 61.1% of is passes for 1,917 yards, 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Over the middle, he’s completed 76.2% of them for 936 yards, but has thrown just six touchdowns and four interceptions.
He also went on to explain that he wanted to see Taylor become more consistent in end-of-game situations, bringing up his comeback performance against the Tennessee Titans as an example. This is also a valid comment and is definitely something that Taylor needs to do in order to cement himself as an upper-echelon passer in this league. The table below shows Taylor’s passing stats in 4th quarter situations.
Where do the Buffalo Bills go From Here?
Moving forward, it’s obvious that Tyrod Taylor presents the best option at the quarterback position for the 2016 season. EJ Manuel has earned a ticket out of Buffalo after failing to live up to the hopes the team had for him when they used a first-round draft pick on him in 2013, so they’ll need to address the position in both free agency and the draft.
Keep in mind that Taylor’s third year of his contract is now voided due to him earning the starting job and playing over 80% of the team’s offensive snaps, so he will be an unrestricted free agent after next season. So the fact that the team will add one or more quarterbacks during the offseason isn’t an indication that they’re looking to move on from Taylor, but to have some insurance in the event that he doesn’t make the improvements Whaley wants to see, or he hits free agency.
Right now, Taylor has done exceeded the expectations set for him when he first signed with the team and has shown the traits requisite of a long-term quality starter in the National Football League. It’s far too soon to make rash judgements on whether Taylor is a “Franchise QB” or whatever hot media buzzword you want to use, but he’s certainly placed himself among the top 16 quarterbacks in the NFL with his play this season. In a league where even average quarterbacks are few and far between, the mere thought of moving on from Tyrod Taylor already is laughable.