Buffalo Bill’s new QB displays diversity in his game; he is more than just a “running quarterback.”
The morning after, much of western New York awoke with a smile. National reactions ranged from Taylor being hailed as the new supreme commander of quarterbacking to doubts arising because he torched a weak Colts defense.
A review of his first game and his decisions and throws on Sunday revealed a sound foundation for the optimism, regardless of the opposition he faced while completing passes.
The quick work the Buffalo Bills made of a Colts team, once considered Super Bowl contenders by some, had the Bills Mafia in a well-deserved state of joy.
Former Bills legends and current players didn’t hold back their enthusiasm for the new-look Bills.
It’s nice to have something to cheer about. All the Buffalo Bills Alumni were dancing in suites during the game… http://t.co/zgv1UMb8af — Jeff Nixon (@jeffnixon) September 14, 2015
#RockTheRalph — Jim Kelly (@JimKellyInc) September 13, 2015
After beating the Colts, @Boobie24Dixon has a message for the rest of the NFL. #Billsmafia @buffrumblings https://t.co/CnFPOuhMsu — Thad Brown (@thadbrown7) September 14, 2015
Bills QB Taylor better than advertised in first NFL start ever — Fred Smerlas (@FredSmerlas) September 13, 2015
Most importantly, a tape review showed that the promise wasn’t based on a fluke—Sunday had been filled with excellent football in Orchard Park.
The Bills had initiated the game with a fake jet sweep to Taylor, who was positioned as a slot receiver, while Matt Cassel stepped in at quarterback.
The play resulted in a significant loss, marking a very inauspicious start for the Bills’ offense (referenced in the clip below).
It felt gimmicky and forced as a drive starter—a type of play you’d lead with if your quarterback was limited. However, as the game progressed, it became evident that Taylor was anything but limited.
One of the things that I appreciated the most from Taylor on that day was his awareness and decisiveness in finding his checkdowns.
This part of quarterbacking was often overlooked, considered a throw that anybody could do. The subtlety in the guys who did it better was the quickness with which they transitioned from downfield eyes to the short drop-off.
Too often in the NFL, quarterbacks relented to their check-downs with enough delay that the back or receiver was caught flat-footed.
Linebackers loved this because it was a pursuit tackling play. The fraction of a second it took the QB to find and deliver the ball and the receiver’s position when he got it represented ground gained in pursuit.
Taylor had done an excellent job throughout the day against the Colts in making quick and timely check-down throws (referenced in the clip below).
In an aspect expected of a mobile quarterback like Taylor, he had been efficient the day before in move-the-pocket situations… in this example, boot.
His ability to make plays in this part of the game had been critical as it added another dimension and disguise for linebackers on the second level.
The Bills had wanted the offense to start with a strong run game first. An athlete like Taylor, who had this dimension to his game, could use a boot as an excellent counter punch to slow the complex flow of linebackers in the running game.
Below was an example of hard-sell boot action that a) the Colts played poorly and b) Taylor executed quite well…
We had all become pretty acclimated to the draft buzz phrases like “he can make all the throws.” One of the “all” benchmarks had been a tempo seam route, a “bow” route that widened the coverage player and returned up the seam.
It hit in the intermediate range of 20-25 yards and required some juice and accuracy. Taylor had done an excellent job the previous day of locating and delivering this type of pass (referenced in the clip below)…
For a team like Buffalo that leaned heavily on the run and catch-run intermediate passing games, the ability to keep teams honest with shot plays had been critical.
One of Taylor’s best plays of the day had been this downfield gem to WR Percy Harvin (referenced in the clip below).
Taylor’s accuracy had been solid throughout the preseason, helping him earn the starting job, and he delivered some perfect downfield throws on the actual stage—a great sign that the pressure of the real thing wasn’t too much for him.
As expected, the Bills had incorporated scheme runs that essentially used Taylor as a direct-snap running back.
His speed to the edge had been a prominent issue for defenses to be aware of (in the instance below, the Colts’ edge awareness was atrocious), making defensive game-planning for the Bills offense particularly challenging.
One of the big successes of the day for the Bills had been the diversity in their approach. The practice week for the Patriots would have been a hefty one after the Bills had put so many successful plays on tape.
Taylor’s ability to escape the pocket had been expected. Escaping pressure to convert first downs had been one thing.
Escaping pressure for 30-yard runs had been another thing altogether. Taylor had exhibited some scary pocket-breaking moments the day before that should have had teams throughout the league considering a low spy element on most downs.
This decision could thin intermediate coverage. There were moments the day before where Taylor bailed on pockets relatively quickly, something his coaches would undoubtedly try to tune up.
But that said, it had been hard to argue with the decision to run when gaining chunk yards like the play below.
As long as Taylor remained adept at getting out of bounds, sliding, and avoiding unnecessary downfield hits, this had been a good sign for the Bills offense.
On Sunday, Taylor made many plays within the structure of the offense in addition to the handful of improvised plays.
Noting that Colt’s defense looked ineffective at some points (and downright terrible at others) doesn’t take away the fact that Taylor exhibited a wide range of skills, both in and out of the pocket.
The optimism in Buffalo had been warranted, no doubt. However, there had been no reason to put the cart before the horse-alo and start talking Super Bowl.
More importantly for the here and now, Sunday had been proof that Rex Ryan made the right decision at quarterback, and the Bills, at least at this super-early juncture in the season, looked like a serious player in the AFC East.
Taylor wasn’t a gimmick. And he didn’t play Sunday like a player who’d need to be OK, so the offense didn’t screw it up for a defensively-minded team.
Taylor played like a uniquely skilled NFL quarterback. It was as simple as that.
What did that mean for the future? Who did the heck know? But for now, Bills Mafia had every right to smile…