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Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor: total production from passing and running

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The age old question: Can tremendous legs balance a lackluster arm?

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Despite all the arguments, I think the vast majority of Buffalo Rumblings readers are pretty similar in thinking on Taylor. He’s a flawed-but-occasionally-exciting passer that’s not the best in the league but not the worst. We vary a good deal on whether we feel he’s our best chance “in the now,” and a lot of the conversation revolves around one question: “Do his legs make up for his arm?”

First a disclaimer. None of the following information is intended to provide a conclusive answer. I’ll make some methodology notes as I go along, but understand that I know there are numerous variables I didn’t consider (usually with good reason).

General Methodology

I wanted to examine production from the QB spot for all 32 teams in the 2016 season as it related strictly to moving the ball, aka “yards.” I relied on per-games rates. If the passing totals look off, that’s because I used a site that adjusted by sacks, as I wanted to include the potential drawbacks of a running QB as well. If you’re interested, without sacks, Tyrod averaged 201 yards last year.

I do not like flat rankings by themselves. I’m a bigger fan of standard deviations to create a range of normal rather than perfect average. Therefore, there are three lines in each of the charts; the red line is perfect average and the area between the black lines is within one standard deviation of perfect average and can be considered the range of “normal” production.

Passing Yards Per Game

My Takeaways: Shocking! Taylor is ranked near the bottom in yards per game. The biggest takeaway from these kinds of charts is always how many people are “normal” when we adjust for a range of production.

Note, this isn’t to suggest there’s no difference between Aaron Rodgers’ 269 yards per game and the star studded power of the New York Jets with their 216 yards. It’s more to indicate that these teams are within expected ranges. Even some of the best QBs in the league (Rodgers, Luck, Rivers) generally don’t leave other teams that far in the dust.

I like to put these in terms of practical examples. If we’re looking at this as a gap analysis; to mirror production of an average team we need to make up about 52 yards somewhere else. To keep up with Drew Brees, we’re looking at 130 yards or so.

That includes all facets of the game. A superior running game, above average defense and of course low penalty output would all help close the gap. I’ll revisit this idea a couple times...

Rushing Yards Per Game

My Takeaways: Holy HELL! I mean, I knew Taylor was up there, but WOW! Method note here, rather than take all the QBs for teams that had a bit of a carousel situation, I took whoever had the most games played and used their info here. This is because QB rushing rates seem to be highly correlated with specific QB.

The always-scintillating Colin Kaepernick is the only QB who has more yards than Taylor on a per-game basis. After those two...well there’s no comparison really.

With the last chart, I put forth the idea that between an “average” QB we’d somehow need to make up about 52 yards and to match Brees more like 130. As you can see, by himself, Taylor nearly gets us to the average line. We’d only need about 14 yards difference throughout the game to match average, and under 100 to match Brees.

But wait Skare! Shouldn’t the other QBs get credited for their running ability too? Glad you asked. Before I get to that... Check out Eli Manning. Lol, negative yards?

Combined Production

My Takeaways: This isn’t super encouraging. Taylor edges into the range of normal here, but barely. His legs don’t push him too far up the list in terms of moving the ball.

This puts the combined average to about 250 yards per game. We should further expect anywhere from 224 to 280 to be pretty normal. Taylor is giving us 228 which is there, but not enough to make most of us comfortable. The insinuation here is that if his average is around 228, about half his games are below normal. And this is even with his legs helping out.

Conclusion

From the above, it could be argued that Taylor is a bottom-tier quarterback. However, there are some things that just won’t translate well. Naturally, I’ll discuss a few.

I haven’t ran the data, so I’m merely spitballing something here. It’s very difficult to put a weight on turnovers. The yardage production chart shows Taylor as squeaking into the range of normal. However, if he truly does have a low rate of turnovers that puts some added value there.

Also, it’s tough to quantify how this plays out when you’re driving for a win at the end of the game. Specifically, even if he can match his production, does he need to use his legs and risk burning up more time? On the flip side, will he sputter if the legs are taken out from under him?

So where does this all leave us? Using combined rate, Tyrod Taylor and the 2016 Buffalo Bills needed to make up about 24 yards per game to keep up with other teams. To beat the best (Drew Brees) they needed to play catch up to the tune of about 90 yards per game.

How realistic is this?

The current defense can close much of that gap on a consistent basis. I’m confident after five games that we have good things brewing there. Shady’s runs keep getting called back and lord I hope that at some point his good runs will start counting.

I think the Bills can win, but there’s very little room for Taylor to trend backwards. If Dennison and company can’t figure out how to avoid games like we’ve seen against the Panthers and Bengals, things will be rough. (Maybe we should stop playing cat-themed teams...)