In hindsight, Week 2 might have been one of the most difficult weeks for Bills fans in recent memory. Prime time, against your former quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and former coach Chan Gailey, and the Bills essentially get embarrassed on Thursday Night Football.
Fast forward 12-hours... the Bills fire their offensive coordinator Greg Roman and the Bills face the vaunted task of going up against one of the better defenses in Week 3 in the Arizona Cardinals. Before you even prepare your heart for that looming disaster, let’s take a look back at 5 plays from Week 2 that say a lot about why the offense struggled as much as it did against the Jets.
Before I get into everything Tyrod Taylor did wrong during their loss to the Jets, let’s take a second to appreciate one of the best throws you’ll maybe see all season long. The defense shifts into a 3-deep look basically putting Darrelle Revis on a one-on-one situation with one of the fastest players in the league; Marquise Goodwin.
This play is far more difficult than Taylor makes it look because the ball needs to be delivered early and in stride. Taylor takes only one hitch-step into the pocket before deciding there was simply no way Revis would be able to stay with Goodwin stride-for-stride and places the ball perfectly to a surging Goodwin who makes a terrific grab over his shoulder.
It amazes me the confidence Taylor shows on this throw. At the snap of the ball he knows he has the matchup he wants and executes. Throwing a deep ball to an explosive receiver like Goodwin is difficult because if you under throw that ball, it’s likely an interception. If only Taylor could show this same degree of confidence on every one of his throws.
When players refer to the fact their defensive gamplan was to make Taylor “play quarterback” this is EXACTLY what they mean. Attempt to keep him contained inside the tackle box, step up and make an NFL throw over the middle of the field, which in this case he was unable to do. Perhaps it’s due to his height, or lack of confidence but this is a window throw starting NFL quarterbacks must make 7 out of 10 times; maybe more.
In no way am I suggesting that this is an easy throw, but it’s a throw that successful players at the position make on a routine basis. The defense drops back in what looks to be abbreviated cover-3 look, with a 1-high safety and two corners bailing to their zone. You can make the case it may be a man under look, but the corners don’t get a jam at the line leading me to believe it’s a look to confuse Taylor, which it does.
This play however is an indictment of Greg Roman’s inability to fool defenses. It may be more telling that he gives his quarterback but two real reads on the play, the over the middle look to Woods, or the “bump-and-dump” to Charles Clay who’s responsibility on this play is to chip Mohammad Wilkerson before breaking out on a short arrow route. Neither is open. The only player actually open, depending on the timing of Taylor’s release is Sammy Watkins on the outside.
Plain and simple, this is a terrific example of a quarterback being limited by his play-caller. Roman may not have trusted Taylor enough to open up the playbook and give Taylor multiple options on a given play, but if new Bills offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn doesn’t open things up this week to allow Taylor to either flourish, or fall apart, Bills fans may never get a real look at what Taylor can be.
No you didn’t just see a unicorn, it was in fact a completed slant route by the Buffalo Bills. Before we get into the ball placement, which I thought was poor, I want to get into why I think Taylor is struggling with accuracy on his short-to-intermediate throws.
All offseason Bills quarterbacks coach David Lee spoke about how much film Taylor had studied of Peyton Manning and how much it would influence his ability to throw over the middle. On this play, either David Lee was lying and Taylor hadn’t been watching any Manning film or Taylor is simply reverting back to poor habits.
I’ve noticed it this year in only two regular season games and a preseason game more than I did all of last season but Taylor is essentially sitting still in the pocket. He takes the shotgun snap and stands tall, has his eyes down field but his feet are dug in the ground, he almost stands completely still. It’s the exact reason he almost got killed against the Redskins in the preseason and it’s the reason he’s not accurate with his throws.
If he really had been watching Peyton Manning in the offseason he’d see that Manning was always moving. His feet, his eyes everything was in constant motion and it allowed him to release the ball in an instant. When Taylor sits back and becomes lazy he has a propensity to throw off of his back foot, which will rear it’s ugly head later on in the article in his late-game interception.
As far as the placement goes, this is a throw you make 100 times a practice. It’s one that you throw to loosen up your arm, it’s one that should be thrown in between the top of the receivers numbers and below his facemask. Although it may have saved Sammy from taking a bigger hit having to go low to get the ball, this is an elementary level throw that should be made 10 out of 10 times accurately, and his footwork is absolutely to blame.
This play really, really bothers me because many will blame the offensive line here for not giving Taylor enough time to complete the pass. If you watch closely though, you’ll see that Taylor would have had enough time to step up and make a throw to Watkins at the sideline had he trusted what was happening in front of him.
Again, this is something every quarterback has to learn and that’s playing inside of the pocket and to this point Taylor just hasn’t done that. Taylor takes his drop after the snap and instead of stepping straight up into the pocket, he takes a jump step to his left putting him directly into the outside rush that would have had no chance of getting to him had he dropped straight back and then stepped up.
This is a basic footwork flaw that just shouldn’t happen at the NFL level, and it’s something that I think will continue to happen if Taylor can’t learn to trust what he sees. There’s a play to be made here and it’s in the pocket. Don’t be one of those guys to pin this on the offensive linemen because it’s simply not their fault.
Another instance of Tyrod drifting into the line of fire. Although there isn’t as clean of a pocket as there was on the previous play, Taylor moves to his left and makes this throw more difficult than it needs to be. The drifting motion not only takes him off of his spot. It puts his body in an unbalanced position and directly leads to the interception on this play.
In preparation of Arizona this week, I’ve heard defenders on a few instances refer to Carson Palmer’s “spot” and having to get him off his “spot” to be successful. Taylor needs to find his spot if he’s going to be successful moving forward.
His footwork in this instance puts himself in a position where he can’t get the type of velocity we’re used to seeing on his deep balls, specifically like the touchdown to Goodwin earlier in the game. His shoulders are squared to his target, and he basically throws off of one foot which is the main reason the ball was under thrown.
It was another poor performance from Taylor and the Bills offense. I for one am excited to see what the offensive-coordinator change will do for Taylor’s game. At the end of the day, the decision to fire Roman wasn’t about the successes or failures of the offense. I think the organization needs to find out what exactly they have in Taylor, and Roman simply wasn’t willing to give Taylor the freedom in the offense for the organization to get a real look.
Now, under the guidance of Anthony Lynn, the playbook will remain the same but the way in which it’s executed will be different, and that’s something to keep your eye on next week and beyond.