There are many questions facing the Buffalo Bills this coming season. Among the most important of them: is Tyrod Taylor going to be the answer at quarterback that the Bills have been looking for sense Jim Kelly left the Bills after the 1996 season? The carousel at the Bills quarterback position has been a revolving door ever sense. 11 different quarterbacks have started the season for the Bills since Kelly. In order they are: Todd Collins, Doug Flutie, Rob Johnson, Alex Van Pelt, Drew Bledsoe, J.P. Losman, Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick, E.J. Manuel, Kyle Orton, and Matt Cassel, who started the season opener in 2015 by running the first play of the first game.
Buffalo Bills May Have Found Stability at Quarterback with Tyrod Taylor
We all know Tyrod Taylor was the real starter last season, but technically Cassel got the season start. Sprinkle in a random start by Kelly Holcomb, Brian Hoyer, Thad Lewis, and Jeff Tuel during that same time span, and that is 16 different starters for Buffalo at quarterback in an 18 year span.(Source) Not exactly a formula for success in a quarterback driven league, and the Bills record shows as such, having not been to the playoffs now since 1999. Last season, Tyrod showed glimpses of being the consistent answer for the Bills, yet some questions still remain.
In 2015, Taylor had some decent stats for his first full season as a starter. His completion percentage was 63.7%, he threw for 3,035 yards, with 20 touchdowns, and only six interceptions, and an overall quarterback rating of 99.4.(Source) At the NFL combine in 2011, Taylor was a top performer in all categories he competed in. Taylor ran a 4.51 40-yard dash, had a 37.5 inch vertical leap, a broad jump of 126.0 inches, and did the 20-yard shuttle in only 4.09 seconds, all impressive numbers for a quarterback.(Source) So Taylor has the physical skill set, that is no question, and his 10 inch hands should be big enough to grip the ball well in the cold environment of Buffalo, N.Y.
Sitting behind Joe Flacco, and watching him win a Super Bowl, is also a positive trait of Taylor. The Ravens are a well run organization, with good ownership and coaching. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of Taylor, “We’ve said it many times, and some agree, and some didn’t. Some in this circle agreed and some didn’t. Tyrod, we always felt like, could play, and it’s good to see him proving it.”(Source)
Taylor proved that being in the Ravens environment taught him how to operate as a good person and team mate, as well as a player. This last year during Christmas he bought all of his offensive linemen 65′ big screen T.V.’s, a nice gift from a quarterback who is still not making the big money, with a current contract of only three years and $3.35 million. Bills general manager Doug Whaley has already reached out to Taylor’s agent to talk about an extension, but also made it clear they will be looking to add a quarterback to the roster for 2016.
Eric Wood, who made the Pro Bowl as an alternate for the Bills at center, spoke highly of Tyrod’s Christmas surprise, saying “Nice gesture by Tyrod, it kind of just reinforces what I feel about him, that he just gets it, man. He understands the game, he understands being a quarterback, he understands his role with us and really nice gesture of him.”(Source)
Unlike most running quarterbacks, Taylor keeps his eyes down field, and looks to throw first, only using his legs as an escape route. He has also shown last season that he has a strong arm, and is accurate throwing down field. After all this it may seem as though the Bills have found what they have been looking for. But for a team who has had bust after bust for almost two decades at quarterback, they have reason to be cautious.
Taylor’s playing style leaves him open to injury. Quarterbacks who have the ability to scramble and run, or who are repeatedly used as a running back in certain offensive schemes, have a tendency to experience injuries more often than a pocket passer. Once a quarterback breaks the pocket and runs, they are open to harder hits and more abuse from the defense. This kind of play can take its toll on a players body, especially a quarterback, who is not used to, or conditioned for taking that kind of punishment.
Taylor did miss two weeks of play last year with a sprained MCL, which he obtained during a horse-collar tackle in week five of last season against the Tennessee Titans. The Bills want to avoid an RGIII situation, in which their mobile quarterback takes too much abuse, and cannot keep himself on the field due to injuries. Rex Ryan has made it clear that the team intends to do its best to keep offensive linemen Richie Incognito and Cordy Glenn. This would go a long way in helping keep Taylor healthy and secure in the pocket as well. One of the knocks on Tyrod coming out of the combine was that he locks on to receivers and telegraphs his throws. The better protection the Bills can give Taylor in the pocket, the more Taylor can improve and hone his throwing and field vision skills. This means he will have to run less, and gives him a better chance at success and longevity.
All this means is that there are many ways in which the Bills can help Tyrod be successful. They have most certainly put the receiving corps around him, with Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin (if he can come back and stay healthy), Robert Woods, and Charles Clay at tight end. And the Bills did have the best running game in the league last year with LeSean McCoy and surprising rookie Karlos Williams. The defense? That’s a story in itself and could take up a whole article alone, especially with brother Rob Ryan coming to town. But the offense does look as if it is heading in the right direction.
Tyrod Taylor has the right background, the right skill set, and the right leadership skills to have all the success he wants in the NFL at quarterback. He was groomed well by a good organization in the Baltimore Ravens, and learned what it takes to win a Super Bowl. Sitting on the bench and learning for the first few years of a players career seems to be a good model for achievement in the NFL. The only real questions that remain are will the Buffalo Bills continue to put the pieces in place around him to continue to grow, and can Tyrod himself continue to grow?
Hopefully, for Bills fans sake, Taylor is not like many other stereotypical running quarterbacks, where he reaches a plateau. If Taylor can learn not to telegraph his throws, gains better footwork and eye manipulation in the pocket, and can gain a growing confidence with a stable offensive line, the Bills have a chance to finally have found someone to answer the call at quarterback, at least for the next few years. After 16 different quarterbacks, and 16 years without a playoff appearance, all Bills fans sure hope so.