When discussing, analyzing, and debating Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor, his in-pocket passing is often a sticking point.
Because Taylor is a smaller, ultra-athletic quarterback who likes to run, many think that automatically means he struggles as a passer inside the confines of the pocket. And while he’s undoubtedly “missed” open receivers when deciding to take off as a runner, being an amazing scrambler and having the ability to be effective as a passer from inside the pocket are not mutually exclusive. However, it’s hard to blame anyone who initially believes that’s the case simply because in the NFL quarterbacks who thrive as runners and passers are extraordinarily rare.
Yesterday on Twitter, Pro Football Focus Senior Analyst Mike Renner sent me Tyrod’s passing stats when he broke the pocket last season. He had 51 runs for 408 yards and was 21-of-53 for 372 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
For context, on Tyrod completing 39.6% of passes outside the pocket, Cam Newton’s completion rate outside the pocket was just 20.5%. Aaron Rodgers connected on 43.1% of his outside-the-pocket throws (38 of 88), Matthew Stafford’s figure was 49.1%.
Our conversation started after Renner sent this tweet:
Aaron Rodgers broke the pocket on 17% (!) of his dropbacks last year. Only Tyrod Taylor did so more frequently— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) May 24, 2017
After doing some elementary math, I discovered that Tyrod broke the pocket on 18% of his dropbacks (104 of 573) to lead the league in that category. From there, I subtracted to find Tyrod’s in-the-pocket passing statistics from last season:
In the pocket, Tyrod was 248 of 383 (64.7%) for 2,651 yards (6.92 yards-per-attempt) with 15 touchdowns and five interceptions. That equates to a 92.4 QB Rating, which lands between the overall passer ratings of Andy Dalton (91.8) and Russell Wilson (92.6) in 2016.
Those figures aren’t outstanding passing between the tackles — Tyrod’s 6.92 YPA isn’t that efficient — but completing close to 65% of his throws with a 3:1 TD to INT ratio is far from an indicator of inconsistency or lack of ability.
To me, less running for Tyrod would likely lead to him making a bigger positive impact on the Bills offense. Clearly, he’s much better as a passer when throwing from the pocket.
“He rectifies every ‘negative’ dropback in which he prematurely leaves the pocket before scanning to his third or fourth read — thereby theoretically “missing” a receiver who would’ve come open — by making the same amount of magical yet, for him, seemingly routine evasions of pressure to create something out of nothing by way of a nifty scramble or precise throw on the run.”
That unique trade off exists with Tyrod under center. It may not be a perfectly even trade off every week. He’ll always run around to a certain degree. And really, Tyrod would be purposely not tapping into his full potential if he never left the pocket. Heck, he had seven runs of 20+ yards in 2016. Seven. Rodgers and Marcus Mariota had three. Newton had two. Russell Wilson didn’t have any.
And Tyrod definitely could improve inside the pocket, but he was competent passing from there a season ago.