With the Buffalo Bills currently holding a wildcard spot in the AFC playoff race, a well-deserved pat on the back should go to starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor for his play. He’s not the only person that should get that pat as he needs to thank his offensive line for holding up as well as they have.
So far through nine games Taylor has had an average of 3.11 seconds to throw the ball, the most amount of time for any NFL quarterback who has played 50% or more of his team’s offensive snaps. These precious seconds are a product of the play of standout guard Richie Incognito and his fellow lineman, and Taylor’s own ability to move within the pocket to buy himself time.
Winning teams typically have decent offensive lines that give their quarterbacks time to get the ball out to their playmakers. So far this Buffalo offensive line is fifth in the league in pass blocking efficiency per ProFootballFocus.com, and has done a good enough job against some tough passing rushing teams.
A team with poor line play has to scheme around their deficient lines with shorter passing concepts. The New England Patriots and Tom Brady are an example of this concept. Brady is averaging 2.21 seconds to throw the ball, yet he is completing 74.4% of all passes thrown within 2.5 seconds or less. It takes a superbly smart quarterback to be able to play behind a leaky line as they have to recognize immediate cues from the defense, and know where to go with the ball pre-snap.
For the Bills the extra time has been necessary for a first time starting quarterback that is still acclimating to a new offense. Good blocking up front has allowed individual skilled position players to shine in different games. Taylor has been able to feature Charles Clay, Sammy Watkins, LeSean McCoy, and Percy Harvin at different times within the passing game. This is also beneficial as teams have to prepare for more than one weapon in which the Bills could utilize.
The downside of having too much time is indecision. There have been times where Taylor has hesitated with his decision making, and instead of throwing or scrambling has been brought down for sacks. On average Taylor gets sacked at 4.22 seconds, but doesn’t start scrambling until after 5.23. That’s a full second where he is throwing the ball, being taken down, or getting ready to run.
Time also allows the defensive front to get into Taylor’s face and collapse any running lanes he may have. When the pressure is on Taylor carries a high completion percentage of over 60%, but he also brings the highest sack rate of any NFL quarterback at 27.3%.
His elusiveness is both a gift and a curse. He can buy himself more time by scrambling to get out of the pocket, or pick up yardage to neutralize a blitz, but at the same time can run himself into more trouble.
Taylor is a gifted passer, and has clearly elevated the offense, but what he needs to fine tune as we head down the home stretch is his decision making process. He needs to continue his growth in recognizing things pre-snap, and from there quickly define where to go with the ball. His choice isn’t only in regards to passing, but also with him running the football.
For this week it will be Taylor’s second time facing a Bill Belichick defense, and unless he has grown mentally as a quarterback, you can expect the same results from the first matchup. In that game Taylor struggled in the first half as he was sacked multiple times. The play calling changed and he grew in the second half leading the Bills to get within a score, but it was too little too late.
As the playoff push continues how far the Bills go will be determined on Taylor’s ability to make plays. It appears he will be given the necessary time in the pocket thanks to his improved offensive line, but capitalizing on that time will be critical.