Many Bills fans would agree that if Tyrod Taylor takes a step forward and can improve from a very successful first campaign as the unquestioned starter, that the Bills may actually have a chance to play meaningful football come January. Each week, I will follow the progression of Taylor in his second full season, breaking down three of his best plays and three of his worst plays each week.
Starting with his third preseason start of the season against the Washington Redskins, with limited game action, I took four plays I thought stood out to me the most starting with his first pass attempt of the game.
This play is a major reason Tyrod Taylor has cemented himself as one of the top mobile quarterbacks in the league. His ability to make something out of nothing is uncanny. A miscommunication between Eric Wood and Richie Incognito don’t allow Taylor to take a step up in the pocket allowing pressure from the outside to hinder Taylor’s ability to keep his eyes downfield.
Taylor’s wide base allows him to stay in control and somehow, he’s able to avoid a rusher with a clear shot at him. When you look across the line, 3 out of 5 guys lose their 1-on-1 battles. Having a quarterback like Taylor, a play is never over so even if a majority of the guys up front lose their 1-on-1 battle, they have to remain aggressive and look to get a piece of someone.
It was disappointing to see guys like Wood and Incognito lose their matchups and simply turn around hoping their quarterback doesn’t get drilled. It’s hard to blame Taylor for anything here, all you can do is admire his never quit mentality that ultimately minimized the damage to a 3 or 4 yard loss.
Another miscommunication upfront leads to a hit on Taylor. A few things that stand out to right away; Taylor stays completely locked on to his primary target in the slot Sammy Watkins. So much so that he gets lazy with his footwork and stands completely still waiting for him to beat his 1-on-1 matchup with Josh Norman.
When Watkins gets jammed up at the line and doesn’t get a clean release, it messes with the timing of the play. What messes the timing up even more is the fact Taylor stays stationary in the pocket. As much as fans and media alike has pressed Taylor and OC Greg Roman to feature Watkins more, he can’t allow himself to get lazy and lock on one guy.
If Taylor had stayed active, moving his feet much like he did last week in a win against the Giants, specifically on his touchdown pass to LeSean McCoy, there’s a chance he would have seen the free rusher, allowing him to either scramble and reestablish the pocket or get rid of the ball to his second option.
With Washington clearly stifling the Bills receivers playing man up across the board, his second option was no better. But the magic he was able to create on a similar blitz last week against the Giants on a play to Charles Clay started with active feet in the pocket, something he failed to do here.
In yet another glaring example of Taylor’s mental progression, he’s able to read a last minute shift by Redskins safety DeAngelo Hall from a two-deep safety look funneling down to a cover 3, one-high safety look. The play called appeared to be a quick slant in what would have been an opening in a two-deep look. Taylor recognized the shift and did his buddy Sammy Watkins a huge favor saving him from a would be big hit.
If you watch closely, I have the distinct feeling there was miscommunication across the board as Eric Wood appears to be blocking for a run as he’s nearly five yards up field, which would have likely lead to a penalty had Taylor let it go.
Again, Taylor’s ability to make something out of nothing can’t be emphasize enough. For most quarterbacks in this league, this is either a sack or an incomplete pass. Instead, Taylor recognizes an opportunity to tuck it and get positive yards.
In what was probably the best offensive play by the starting offense in a brief outing, Taylor does a terrific job of moving the pocket. It didn’t appear to be a designed shift to his left, but Taylor likely buys himself an extra second or two as the pass rush beats Chris Gragg on the outside.
Taylor throws with anticipation and puts the ball right on the hands of Robert Woods. Although he was clearly interfered with, I still believe he should have had the catch.
With a double team of Sammy Watkins on the bottom of the screen and DeAngelo Hall playing in the box as a spy on Taylor, he makes a difficult throw look ridiculously easy. Although you can probably make the case that a throw to Greg Salas is probably the best play here, this should have been a completed pass for a touchdown.
These are the type of throws he’ll have to make on a consistent basis if he truly is taking the next step.
Next week with the starters likely sitting in the final preseason game of the year, I’ll break down a bit of EJ Manuel’s game as he prepares himself to go into the final year of his rookie contract as the backup.
Follow me on Twitter @NateGearyWGR.