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 showed capable of doing, while providing an additional threat as a runner and creating explosive plays down the field.
In 14 games, Tyrod Taylor completed 63.7% of his passes for 3,035 yards, averaging 8.0 yards-per-attempt (5th-best), while throwing 20 touchdowns and only six interceptions, adding another 568 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Taylor was extremely efficient, particularly on deep balls—passes that traveled at least 20 yards down the field—completing 28-of-68 attempts for 1,014 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The third year of Taylor’s contract will be voided, making him a free agent following the upcoming 2016 season, but the Bills’ front office hasn’t shown much desire to get a deal done in the immediate future, as General Manager Doug Whaley stated that there’s areas in Taylor’s game that he wants to see improvement on before awarding him with a big contract.
Tyrod Taylor certainly had one of the best seasons of a Buffalo Bills quarterback in arguably over a decade and in a quarterback-driven league, if a team can be average at the position, they’re typically in good shape. So why wait on signing him? Let’s take a look at Whaley’s critiques and see if the numbers support his claims.
In an appearance on WGR 550, Whaley stated that he’d like to see Taylor make a big improvement with his passing over the middle of the field. The majority of NFL passing attacks are designed to attack the middle of the field with quick, underneath routes that put linebackers in a bind. Just watch the New England Patriots’ offense and you’ll see the efficiency.
Tyrod Taylor Passing Map
RealSportsNetwork.com provided a passing map of all of Tyrod Taylor’s pass attempts and the numbers were eye opening. Of Taylor’s 380 pass attempts in 2015, just 27 were over the middle of the field—a 7.1% rate—while 229 were outside of the numbers—a 60.2% rate. The remaining 124 attempts were classified as “mid-left” or “mid-right.” Taylor did complete 74% of his passes over the middle, but gained just 214 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. On passes to the sideline, Taylor threw for 1,842 yards, 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions. His completion percentage on those throws was 56.3%, but remember that 56 of those were “low-percentage” throws that traveled 21+ yards downfield.
It’s great to have a quarterback that will take shots down the field and make big plays, but in order to be a successful offense, you have to be productive in the short game. 18.2% of Taylor’s pass attempts traveled 20+ yards down the field, the highest percentage among quarterbacks, while his 1,014 yards from deep passes ranked fifth in the league and accounted for one-third of his passing yardage on the season.
How Can Tyrod Taylor Improve?
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman kept things simple for Tyrod, game-planning around his strengths—using throws to the sideline, rollouts and half-field or Hi-Lo reads that allowed him to be an efficient passer and eliminate as many potential “weaknesses” as possible. Heading into his second season as a starter, Tyrod Taylor will need to prove that he can navigate the middle of the field, read coverages and consistently show that he can make throws into tighter windows.
This isn’t to say that Taylor can’t be that type of passer, but it’s a logical concern for the Bills’ front office to have when considering whether to pay someone in excess of $18 million per year—the going rate for a starting caliber quarterback in the National Football League.