When the Buffalo Bills signed free agents Tyrod Taylor and Percy Harvin there wasn’t much fanfare for either player. Most pundits and fans thought that Taylor would at best be a competitor to EJ Manuel for the second quarterback position, and Harvin was hoping for a reclamation year in Buffalo, while playing second fiddle to Sammy Watkins in the passing game.
Fast forward to today and with three games in the books, the two free agent acquisitions are developing a special receiver-quarterback connection within Greg Roman’s multifaceted offense.
Through three games Harvin leads the team in targets (18) and receptions (16), and has been utilized as a more traditional receiver than gadget player. In fact, his role and usage within the passing game was the prime reason why Harvin signed with Buffalo, as he sought a more traditional offensive role then what he had been used as in Seattle, and sometimes in Minnesota.
Harvin has been relied on to exploit not just intermediate routes, but also the deep ball. He’s been targeted at least once a game on a deep pass (20+ yards downfield) by Taylor, and all but one (a pass interference penalty vs MIA) have resulted in positive plays.
The first deep connection was against the Colts for a 51-yard touchdown. Harvin was able to use his speed on a go route and Taylor was in sync with him to connect for the first score of the game. That touchdown opened the floodgates in a dominating 27-14 Buffalo win.
Then against the Patriots the Bills again saw a mismatch and sent Harvin deep trying to cut into the Patriots lead before the half. Harvin didn’t catch the pass, but drew the pass interference call against Bradley Fletcher. That flag set up first and goal from the New England nine-yard line. The next play Taylor was able to hit Charles Clay for a touchdown to cut the score to 21-13.
Most recently against the Dolphins the Taylor-Harvin deep shot came when the Bills were looking for the jugular in the second quarter. With Buffalo up 17-0 in the second quarter, Taylor just missed the outstretched hands of Harvin. Despite the incompletion in Miami Taylor showed poise in locating his favorite receiver.
Not only is the Harvin fly route becoming a reliable big play attempt; it also shows that Taylor is growing as an adept deep ball passer. In total he’s six of 18 for 211 yards and three scores. His willingness to take shots down the field helps the offense open up as a whole, and prevents opposing defenses from either squatting on short routes or loading the box to stop the run.
The funny thing is that Harvin isn’t even the most targeted deep threat, which would actually be Sammy Watkins with seven, but there is a confidence that Taylor has with Harvin. It’s becoming a weekly occurrence that Taylor will attempt to find Harvin deep to pop open the top of opposing defenses.
Speed kills in today’s NFL, and with Harvin burning past cornerbacks Taylor is finding success in throwing rainbows his way.