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Analysis: the case for the Buffalo Bills to start Nathan Peterman

Should the rookie get a chance?

Buffalo Bills v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Nate Geary wrote an excellent article for WGR 550 about why Tyrod Taylor should remain the starter for the Buffalo Bills and for the most part I do agree with it. I think Taylor should remain the starter, so please remember that while reading I understand this is a very one-sided piece. Then I started thinking about the offense in general. Would it be more successful with Peterman at quarterback? Which led me to channel my inner hot-takes and make the case for Nate Peterman at quarterback.

Currently, the offense (both run game and passing game) has been modified from coordinator Rick Dennison’s preferences. Dennison wants to run the ball mainly using the outside zone / stretch play and couple that with hard play action and a west coast drop back passing game. These three main tenets all do not fit what the talent that the Bills have at quarterback or offensive line.

A few statistics to demonstrate how bad the offense has been. Currently, the Bills rank 31st in yards per play. As a whole, the team has under 300 yards of offense in four straight games and under 200 yards of passing, as well. Out of all teams that have played five games, the Bills have gained the fewest yards. In fact, there are five teams that have only played 4 games that have more yards on offense than the Bills. The Bills have the highest sacked percentage in the NFL at 11.7%, which means that approximately 1 out of every 8.5 times the Bills drop back to pass, the quarterback is sacked. The Bills rank 27th in net yards per passing attempt which takes into account sack yardage. The passing game is 29th in yards per game (165) only topping Jacksonville, Baltimore, and Miami. The offense also is 28th in 1st downs.

Advanced stats (DVOA) ranks the Bills offense 23rd (pass 18th, rush 28th). However, looking at per-drive stats shows that the Bills are 27th in drive success rate (drives that get at least one 1st down or TD). They are 29th in touchdowns per drive, 31st in punts per drive (2nd most), and 29th in 3 and outs per drive (4th most).

In the Cincinnati game the Bills had four drives that started in Cincinnati territory and scored one touchdown, kicked 2 field goals, and punted once. Any additional points from those drives could have meant a victory. What all of these statistics say is that no matter how you look at the offense it is quite poor and is wasting amazing efforts from the defense.

With the team struggling to run the football, the other way to stay ahead of the chains is a short, high percentage passing game, something that Taylor struggles with. Taylor over his career has shown that he is a highly variable quarterback; he makes a lot of splashy big plays, but also struggles to make the smaller, more consistent plays. As many have noticed and written, the three-step passing game has been virtually eliminated from the playbook due to Taylor’s inability to be successful in it. Peterman’s strength in college and the preseason has shown to be the quick passing game. He gets the ball out of his hand quickly, accurately, and with anticipation. One of Dennison’s main tenants is the west coast horizontal passing game. Putting in Peterman would allow Dennison to run more of his offense and help an offense that is struggling to just get first downs. The short-passing, timing-based offense that Dennison wants to run does not require a big arm or excellent escapability, it requires a quarterback that can distribute the ball quickly and with precision.

Football, of course, is a team game and the Bills struggles with the offensive line have been well documented. With Taylor needing plays that take longer to develop, he puts a struggling offensive line into situation where they need to block longer. A quick passing game would help cover those flaws and eliminate the negative plays that kill drives.

The first play of the Bills’ final drive against the Bengals is an excellent illustration of that. An offense that is missing an explosive passing game will struggle even more when it creates negative plays. One of Taylor’s biggest strengths is his legs, something that can help an offensive line, have not been used in the offense this year. There is a lack of quarterback run game (other than the terrible Tecmo Super Bowl QB sweep that they have run twice). Taylor’s biggest passing strength is the downfield passing game, however, Sammy Watkins is not walking through that door. The Bills do not have any downfield passing threats, so again one of Taylor’s strengths has been nullified. I must say that none of this is his fault, that he is a square peg trying to get jammed into a round hole.

Finally, over the past few years, I think we know what Taylor can do well and what he struggles with. He hasn’t shown the improvement that many thought he would show, especially from the pocket. On the bench, the Bills have a quarterback whose strengths are what the offense wants and needs. The offense desperately needs some consistency and pressure taken off the run game. Peterman showed the ability to spread the ball around to all players including the wide receivers. Under Taylor, only 32% of passing yardage has gone to receivers. Now with Clay out, the wideouts will need to be involved in the passing game.

Finally, I want to end with one question, with as bad as the offense has been; could it actually get any worse?