Vic Carucci's Bills analysis: Making Taylor more of a pocket passer still a work in progress - The Buffalo News

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Vic Carucci's Bills analysis: Making Taylor more of a pocket passer still a work in progress

Another offensive coordinator is trying to turn Tyrod Taylor into more of a true pocket quarterback.

The early results, like the previous ones, aren't promising.

From Taylor's final two series of the preseason through the first three of Sunday's season-opening victory against the New York Jets, he had five passes (all from the center of the pocket) knocked down or deflected at the line in five possessions.

There was one in each of the first two drives in the Aug. 26 exhibition game at Baltimore (before Taylor was forced to exit with a concussion), two in the opening march Sunday, and one in the third series against the Jets.

Rick Dennison, Taylor's third coordinator since he became the Bills' starter in 2015, finally incorporated some moving-pocket plays Sunday. Not coincidentally, it happened after Taylor spoke with Dennison on the sideline about taking advantage of some opportunities the quarterback saw with the way the Jets' defensive ends were concentrating on containment.

Dennison listened. After seeing so many of those defensive linemen and linebackers get their big paws on Taylor's throws, he no doubt had to see the value in going a different way.

From Taylor's perspective, throwing on the run puts him in position to make more plays because defensive backs struggle to maintain coverage for an extended period.

"Yes, definitely something that I focus on," Taylor told reporters after the game. "Whenever you move the pocket, it always (causes) the DBs to have to cover more time so we have guys like (LeSean McCoy) that can shake loose. Those guys on the back end, as well as Jordan Matthews, (Charles) Clay, Zay (Jones), all of those guys are working. I tell them, 'Whenever I get a chance to move the pocket, just stay with me.'

"Big plays can come from those type of plays and we were able to capitalize on a couple."

Those plays are in Taylor's comfort zone, and there's nothing wrong with doing what the quarterback likes to do and does best. After the Bills' first series Sunday ended with his being intercepted in the end zone, he bounced back with a solid performance that included a pair of touchdown throws: one-yard tosses to Clay (from the pocket but to the outside) and Andre Holmes (as Taylor moved back and drifted to his left on another pass to the outside).

For the record, Taylor completed all seven of the throws he attempted to the middle of the field -- four of which covered 10 yards or fewer -- but not all came from the center of the pocket.

The thing is, there will be more times than not when Taylor, as with all quarterbacks, must find appreciable success from the pocket in order to succeed in the NFL. Opponents have adjusted and will continue to adjust their defensive fronts to force him to be a pocket passer.

The easy conclusion is that, at barely 6-foot-1, Taylor simply isn't tall enough to consistently get the ball over the hands of towering linemen who are even taller when they jump and stretch out their arms.

Taylor's standard pocket delivery was no match for the likes of 6-foot-7 Ravens end Brent Urban (whose deflection caused a pass for Jones to be way off target) or 6-3 Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (who batted down a pass at the line) or 6-4 Jets end Kony Ealy (who swatted down at pass at the line) or 6-4 Jets end Muhammad Wilkerson (who had a pair of deflections).

However, Taylor's less-than-ideal height doesn't necessarily have to be an impediment, which is something Dennison and the rest of the Bills' current offensive coaches -- and their predecessors from the previous two seasons -- realize.

They know Taylor can do more to help himself with greater reliance on timing the release of the ball so that it arrives at the spot where the receiver is supposed to be rather than hesitating, even for a second or two, to make certain he'll be there. Besides giving an edge to defenders in coverage, the hesitation also allows defensive linemen and outside linebackers to then time their jumps to get in front of the ball.

That was one of the big takeaways former NFL quarterback Jim Miller had when he watched Taylor during training camp last month while broadcasting for SiriusXM NFL Radio.

"I like his decision-making, he doesn't want to put the ball in harm's way," Miller said. "But I think sometimes he needs to take more chances as well. Sometimes, you've got to know by the coverage, and even though you don't always see (the open receiver), you've got to trust that your receiver's going to be there.

"I was a much bigger quarterback than Tyrod, I stood about 6-3. But you still had big offensive linemen that are there and I knew, with the pre-snap reads, where the coverage was going to be. And even when your vision gets blinded a little bit, I knew and trusted that my receiver was going to be there at the time he was supposed to be. Not that you want to make a living on blind throws, but part of that is the timing of it."

Another timing issue that Miller noticed was Taylor not always taking full advantage of his tremendous quickness to set up to throw. Being faster with his backpedaling could, Miller believes, help lead to clearer vision and the ability to get the ball through cleaner lanes.

"If it's a play-action pass, you've got to be more explosive coming out from underneath center because it gives you more space and depth where you can see the field more," Miller said. "If you go look at Russell Wilson, look at how explosive he is. And Tyrod's capable of it, but I think sometimes he gets lazy in his drop. If he would explode back a little bit faster, being the athlete that he is, it would give him more separation where he could have vision down the field to make some more throws down the field."

It's safe to assume Dennison won't give up on trying to make Taylor a true pocket passer, but if Sunday's game was any indication, there is still plenty of work to do.

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