Finding a Quarterback: What is Tyrod Taylor’s Ceiling?

| February 16th, 2017

Did the Buffalo Bills hold Tyrod Taylor back or was it the other way around? That’s the question I kept asking myself as I watched him play.

There were times where Taylor was Russell Wilson.

There were other times where I wondered if the Bills called conservative games because Taylor was their quarterback.

This same debate is prevalent among Buffalo media, who are radically divided on Taylor’s tenure with the Bills.

Buffalo GM Doug Whaley doesn’t like Taylor. Taylor was Rex Ryan’s guy and even though new Buffalo offensive coordinator Rick Dennison is said to be a fan of Taylor’s, Whaley isn’t like to care. Most signs point to the Bills opting out of Taylor’s lucrative contract and the 27-year-old hitting the open market.

He’ll get paidt for his play the last two seasons, with passer ratings of 99.4 and 89.6, but nobody really knows what they’re getting. He could be a quality player on the ascent or he could be a player destined for mediocrity.

I watched six games of Taylor and charted four. I marked him as inaccurate on just 23.3 percent of his passes, but he wasn’t making passes into tight windows down the field. He checked the ball down too quickly at times, but it was hard to tell if that was a his doing or instructions from the coaching staff. Ryan, after all, is notoriously conservative.

One of the criticisms of Taylor was that he couldn’t play from the pocket. In their win over New England, he completed 16 passes for 159 yards from inside the pocket. Not bad.

The numbers took a bit of a dip for Taylor from 2015 to 2016, but they let Chris Hogan go as a free agent and Sammy Watkins missed half the season. He wasn’t Aaron Rodgers, but he was productive. Through two years, his 16-game average was just over 3,300 yards, 21 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. In both seasons he ran for over 550 yards and totaled 10 rushing touchdowns.

Is he capable of more? And I think the answer is yes.

Taylor wasn’t surrounded by much in Buffalo. They had a good offensive line and a great rushing attack, which he contributed to significantly. Outside of Watkins, I’m not sure any of their receivers should be considered above average.

When Taylor had Watkins and Hogan, he was among the best deep passers in the league. According to ESPN’s splits, he completed about 41% of his passes that traveled over 20 yards (for comparison sake, Aaron Rodgers completed 29.2% last year). He was also good on third-and-long with a passer rating of 98.3 and 8.72 yards per attempt on third down with six or more yards.

I also didn’t feel like offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn did him any favors. Lynn must have impressed in the interview process before getting the head job with the Chargers because he didn’t seem to have the first clue how to get guys open. I couldn’t help but wonder how much better Taylor would’ve looked with an offensive coordinator who got big passing performances out of Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley.

With Taylor, I would imagine the Bears passing game looking similar to what it did with Hoyer, only adding the threat of a deep ball and, of course, the ability to run when nothing is open. Taylor is somewhere between Teddy Bridgewater and Russell Wilson. He’s not a franchise quarterback, but he’s more than capable. Capable quarterbacks just don’t hit the market very often.

If Taylor does become a free agent, the Bears will — and should — kick his tires. They have to find out what he is. He just might be a diamond in the rough.

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