The NFL’s Most Involved Backup Quarterback
Most backup quarterbacks only see the field when the starter is injured or when the game is out of hand, and they don’t want an injury to happen. Manuel saw the field for the latter reason in the second half of the fourth quarter in the win over the 49ers yesterday, but we also saw the return of the “Manuel Package” that has shown up from time to time.
We all know that the bread and butter of the Manuel Package is the hard count on fourth down, but he also had the chance to run a couple option plays earlier in the gain. He even kept one himself, picking up a first down on second-and-eight during the first touchdown drive. For a couple plays, he shared the field with Tyrod Taylor, which is an absurdity not seen since the days of Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton in Denver.
Honestly, at this point, is keeping E.J. around really the worst thing? I doubt anybody’s going to give him a chance at a starting job at this point. We’ve all assumed that this is the end of his run with the Bills, but a team could do much worse at the backup position. Unless Cardale Jones seems ready to go for next year, a one-year deal wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.
The “Pace Yourself” Award
Earlier today, Chris Trapasso put together a piece on the state of Tyrod Taylor at the quarterback position. I highly recommend you read it (and not just because he’s the boss around here), but his main points were that Taylor is never going to be a high-volume passer, but is going to thrive around his running ability and his effectiveness at escaping the pass rush.
There’s one thing I would like to add to that. As a passer, and especially during the winning streak, Taylor has moved away from the pure home-run ball and now thrives on gaining small but important chunks of yardage with every pass. Over his Bills career, Taylor has been known for his touch on the deep ball. That was especially on display during the loss to the Jets, when he threw deep TD passes of 71 and 84 yards.
Anybody care to guess his longest pass during the winning streak?
The loss of Sammy Watkins curtailed the home-run potential of the passing game, but in its place is something that is allowing the team to do what it needs to do to win: sustain drives. Of Taylor’s 17 completions yesterday, eight went for first downs and two went for touchdowns. Against Baltimore, that ratio was 5-of-15 with no touchdowns. Against the Jets, it went to 9-of-18 with three touchdowns. Two of those, however, were part of drives that lasted for 51 and 85 seconds, and another was on the final play of the game.
These days, Taylor’s passing game is being used as part of the larger goal of making drives last for as long as possible, and it’s working.
The NFL Leader in Sacks
In case you didn’t realize it...
#Bills note: Reggie Ragland's replacement is now one off the NFL lead in tackles, but Shaq Lawson's replacement STILL leads the NFL in sacks— Jeff Hunter (@hunteriffic86) October 17, 2016
While Zach Brown has fallen one tackle behind the Panthers’ Luke Kuechly, the Lorax still paces the NFL with eight sacks, a half-sack up on Broncos standout and reigning Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. With one more sack, Alexander will equal his career total through nine seasons up to this point. We’ll have a much closer look at his role with the defense when Shaq Lawson returns to practice later this week, but as of right now there’s no reason to mess with success, and Alexander should have a very significant role with the team moving forward.
Least Valuable Player
...and that’s all I have to say about that.
Most Valuable Player
I wrote a piece earlier today about what I mean when I call Shady the MVP, so I’m not going to go into too much detail. What I will say is this: I think the Bills would have won that game even without McCoy and his 140 yards and his three touchdowns, but it would have been much closer. He’s the difference between a team that plays down to one of the worst teams in the league and one that can compete with the best.