Following a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the chances are slim that the Buffalo Bills will earn a berth in the 2015 NFL Playoffs, marking the 16th consecutive season in which they’ve missed out on the postseason. That means that we’ll once again be looking forward to the offseason before the Holiday Season.
But, here at BillsMafia.com that’s not a bad thing, as we’ll keep you updated on everything you need to know about upcoming free agents and 2016 NFL Draft prospects that could potentially wear Bills’ uniforms next season.
I wrote up a primer on the team’s salary cap situation while highlighting potential free agent fits that you can find HERE if you missed it before.
Today, I decided to take a look at Ohio State’s left tackle Taylor Decker, a 6’7” 315-pound offensive linemen for one of the best teams in the country. The Bills selected Cyrus Kouandjio in the second-round of the 2014 NFL Draft and Seantrel Henderson in the seventh, but neither have shown capable of holding down a starting job on the offensive line. Left tackle Cordy Glenn will be an unrestricted free agent following the season, but even if he’s retained, the team will need to address the tackle position during the offseason.
Decker was a standout basketball player in High School and his athleticism is clear when watching him on tape, especially considering his size. A co-captain for the Buckeyes, Decker has started 41 games, including 29 consecutive games as of today. He’s played a significant role in an offense that’s averaged 285.9 rushing yards-per-game in that span which has included 28 individual 100-yard rushing performances and 10 300-yard performances.
Taylor Decker has protoypical size and strength for the tackle position but he’s inconsistent as a run blocker. Too often he’ll rely on his physical abilities to create movement in the run game, displaying sloppy technique that will backfire at times. However, there’s no questioning that he has the potential to improve on the technical aspects of his game, as he regularly shows the ability to drive defenders off the ball.
Here against Alabama in last year’s National Championship game, Decker executes a textbook block—getting into his stance quickly with his hands up and shoulders square to the defender. He uses his long arms to get inside the pads of his man, maintains a low pad level and stays square while driving the defender backwards.
Decker is a powerful and explosive athlete that shows good awareness on combo blocks and understands when to pass off a defender to his teammate and look for more work downfield. This nasty “finisher” mentality is a must for offensive linemen to possess. In the following clip against Virginia Tech, Decker explodes off the snap and blocks down, driving the Hokie defensive tackle off the line of scrimmage on a combo block. He then releases and moves to the second level, where he takes the linebacker out of the play, clearing a hole for his running back who takes it all the way to the endzone.
Decker’s power is put on display again in the following rep from the same game. He absolutely destroys Virginia Tech’s offensive line on a down block, creating a massive running lane for Cardale Jones, who runs a quarterback draw.
After watching the plays above, it’s clear that Decker is a talented player and athlete. However, when he gets overconfident or too aggressive, he’ll start to bend forward at the waist or lunge at defenders, essentially putting his massive frame to waste by losing all leverage against a defender.
This shows up in the following play against Alabama, as Decker bends forward at the waist upon the snap, allowing the defensive end to close the distance between them. This isn’t good for Decker, who’s now incapable of utilizing one of his greatest assets in his arm length. The defender gets inside his pads and jolts him backwards, moving Decker off his spot before making an assisted tackle at the line of scrimmage.
Taylor Decker is a quality pass protector that has the athleticism to get into his pass set quickly and possesses the agility necessary to move laterally while mirroring defenders. His 6’7” stature and long arms allow him to use his hands to fight with opposing pass rushers and assist in recovery when he’s slow to get out of his stance.
In the next clip, Decker’s ability to recover and get in front of a pass rusher is put on display in the Alabama game. The defensive end fakes an inside move that fools Decker into taking a false step, but cuts back. Decker quickly slides over, using his arms to deliver a punch and get back in front of the defender, keeping the pocket clean.
When playing with a low pad level, Decker shows the ability to anchor against a bull-rush as you can see in the following play. He misses his opportunity to deliver a punch, but his core strength and length allow him to maintain his ground and let the quarterback get off the pass cleanly.
Decker’s issues arise when he strays from using proper technique. Due to his height, he has a tendency to play too upright out of his stance, which allows defenders to take advantage of his unbalanced weight distribution and easily move him off his spot.
That’s the case here, as he gets too high out of his stance and allows the defensive end to beat him around the edge. Because he’s not playing low, Decker can’t get outside quickly enough and lunges at the pass rusher. Thankfully for him, Cardale Jones steps up in the pocket, just avoiding a sack.
This happens again in the play below, as he plays too tall and gets bull-rushed right into the quarterback for a sack.
Fit With The Bills
Taylor Decker is an intriguing prospect that has a quality combination of size, strength, athleticism and nastiness that you want to see out of an offensive linemen. He comes with his flaws, but because they’re primarily technique-based, these are coachable issues. I’m not sure he’s ideal as a left tackle at the next level, as he’ll struggle against speed rushers that typically play right defensive end, but I see a quality right tackle prospect that can anchor in pass protection, move defenders off the ball and get to the second level in the run game. He has a bit of Jake Long to him and if he can refine his technique and be more consistent, Decker should be a solid player for several years.