Bills fans got a shock of reality after the Bills 28-25 loss to the Miami Dolphins Sunday in a game many fans, including myself thought would be a walk through. Things went sour late, and the Bills were never able to recover as we all watched their promising early season run come to an end.
A number of factors went into the loss including injuries that have just seemed to stack on top of each other, poor rush defense, poor pass blocking, worse play at the quarterback position and a failure to string together first downs offensively.
When you add all those things together, any team will have a difficult time piecing together a win in the NFL. Let’s see how it shook out for quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Lets just start with acknowledging that the Bills actually ran a back shoulder fade. That’s right a back shoulder fade, who would have thought..? The execution of that back shoulder fade proved the lack of reps both Taylor and Hunter have had together lead to bad timing, as proved on this play.
Still though, this is a critical play of the game. Yes it’s early and yes they still get points on the drive but this is the sort of throw you NEED Taylor to make. It’s not an easy throw, but it’s a throw that is used all over the league. Oh, and in college. And in high school. It’s about using the leverage of, in this case a bad corner (Byron Maxwell), against him.
Now this absolutely should have been called pass interference on Maxwell, but the ball is essentially uncatchable. If it’s thrown where the route intends it to be thrown, one of two things happen: he get’s the PI call or Hunter is able to make a tremendous catch. These are the sort of throws that separate capable quarterbacks from backups. I’m not suggesting Taylor can’t make this throw or that he’s a backup, but this sort of throw in this situation is where Taylor has struggled the most.
You just need your quarterback to make a play when they’re available. This isn’t a spectacular play, it’s not one that only the elite can make. It’s not one where I want to compare him to Brady, Brees, Rivers or Stafford. It’s simply the sort of play that your quarterback needs to make consistently. I like that they showed the back shoulder fade could potentially be apart of their offense in the future, let’s just hope he can get some time with Hunter and Woods to make this play more consistently, especially when the matchup calls for it like it did here.
This play is a perfect example of Taylor’s lack of pocket awareness. He typically does a nice job moving out of the pocket and making a throw on the run. But these sort of plays don’t require your quarterback to bail, they require your quarterback to manipulate the pocket, have the presence to slide to the right a step or two, reestablish your base, stand tall and deliver the ball.
He steps right into Incognito and the pass rush and is forced to make the throw off balance. In the second view you can see all the room if he were to have slide to the right a step or two. If Taylor can hit Charles Clay in stride, there isn’t a defender within 25-yards of Clay other than the defender behind him. This is the sort of play that has the potential to pop if thrown accurately and ahead of the receiver. Instead, he’s forced to come back to the ball and gets tackled immediately.
This isn’t an issue of pressure or poor offensive line play; it’s an issue of pocket awareness. These are little things, and maybe you’ll say I’m over analyzing or splitting hairs. Some of you will even say I’m expecting too much from Taylor, but these were the sort of things he was supposed to improve on that were going to allow him to take a step forward in year two.
Something as small as taking a slide step to the right so you can make this throw in a balanced position opposed to doing so off kilter is the difference off a 10-yard play and a 50-yard play. This kind of play is the perfect example of a positive play that could have been so much more.
The last play was an example of Taylor’s pocket awareness. This play is an example of his inability to dissect and understand what the defense is trying to do. It’s a simple zone blitz that is run terribly and leaves a wide open Reggie Bush at the top of your screen. This has to be a hot read to Bush and must be thrown in under 3 seconds.
Instead he holds and pats the ball and holds on to it some more. Again, this isn’t a breakdown on the offensive line. On the contrary, they do an excellent job stalling the zone blitz to give Taylor the time to hit a hot route (Bush) who is wide open. I don’t want to hear about the receivers he’s forced to play with. I don’t want to hear about the offensive line not giving him any time. It’s not even a coverage sack. It’s a breakdown that starts with Taylor’s inability to read the field and diagnose whats happening in front of him.
I’m not being overly critical. I’m not asking too much. This is a play I NEED him to diagnose and make quickly. To make this play you have to have a combination of patience and urgency.
Nate, how does that even make sense? Well, it’s simple. He has to have the patience to know the one-high safety is going to have to come down to cover one of his receivers. He has to have the patience to diagnose who that is. He then has to have the urgency to get it out fast enough so the safety doesn’t have the time to make a play on the ball.
He doesn’t even make his way to Bush and instead collapses under the pressure of the pass rush. It’s infuriating. Absolutely infuriating.
Similar to the back shoulder fade to Justin Hunter in the first quarter, this is a window throw in what is either a Cover 4 or Cover 2. I think it’s a Cover 2 based on Maxwell’s eyes being fixated in the backfield at Taylor, but his bail technique confuses me a little bit. This throw isn’t an easy one. It’s a window throw that has almost no margin for error with a safety screaming over the top.
This is a throw that again needs to be made quickly and with urgency. There is likely a one-second window to make this throw and it has to be thrown at his back shoulder and lead him out-of-bounds and out of harms way.
It also needs to be thrown on a rope and can’t be thrown with a high trajectory. It gives the safety far too much time to make a play. I’m not as frustrated with Taylor here because this is a big-league throw. I don’t think he has the ability to make this throw consistently, and I commend him on going for it knowing they were in a tight spot.
At the same time, he puts his receiver in a dangerous spot and goes back to a deeper issue with Taylor and that’s his ability to throw a receiver open. This league is predicated on allowing the passing game to succeed. The rules are tailored to help the passing game succeed. It’s extremely difficult to be a defensive back in this league and the Bills never seem to take advantage of the rules that are heavily tilted in their favor.
Obviously I didn’t breakdown the touchdown play, it was a gorgeous throw that doesn’t need to be broken down. We know Taylor can make that throw.
Please don’t take my criticism and make it into something it isn’t. I like Taylor, I want him to succeed, and I think he has the tools and arm strength to succeed. I know he’s never going to be a 300-yard passer consistently. I also know the coaching staff isn’t going to ask him to do that. I’m not even saying he needs to be that, but what he needs to be able to do is steal them a game.
This defense isn’t last years Denver Broncos. They aren’t this season’s Minnesota Vikings. They are a middle of the road, good defense. They can probably steal you three or four games with the help of a great run game. The run game can steal you three or four more games with a great running back like LeSean McCoy. That leaves you two or three games you need your quarterback to steal for you. In 21 games, with or without all of his targets at his disposal, Taylor has been incapable of stealing that game with his arm. He’s done it once with his legs, and I’m not saying it’s less valuable or not the same for him to beat a team with his legs opposed to using his arm. But at some point I need him to show me he’s a quarterback.
The triple option can keep you competitive, but is Georgia Tech ever going to win a National Championship? No way. Eventually you’re going to have to win a game playing from behind and you can’t do it with a quarterback that can’t beat a team through the air. I’m concerned Taylor is never going to play poorly enough to fully turn this fan base or franchise completely off. He doesn’t turn the ball over which is a great aspect of his game, but if he can’t do the other things that make an NFL quarterback, he’s as useful as having a charcoal grill without lighter fluid.