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Jerry Sullivan: Tyrod Taylor looks to make the most of a bad situation

Jerry Sullivan

Considering the circumstances, Tyrod Taylor was surprisingly upbeat Tuesday afternoon. He sounded the way a starting quarterback is expected to sound, like a leader, a veteran who feels it's his duty to show the new guys how an NFL player responds in trying times.

You couldn't have blamed Taylor if he had been in a sour mood. His receivers are disappearing faster than Trump staffers. The Bills traded his best receiver, Sammy Watkins. The guy they got in another deal, Jordan Matthews, is hurt. Anquan Boldin, expected to be his go-to guy on third downs, walked away from football on Sunday. His left tackle, Cordy Glenn, has a sore foot.

Five wideouts caught TD passes from Taylor last season. Every one is gone. Throw in the fact that Tyrod has struggled in two preseason games, inspiring the team's more impatient fans to clamor for Nathan Peterman, a fifth-round rookie, to take over the No. 1 QB job.

"It's definitely big," Taylor said with a smile. "I don't think there's a situation that has happened like that in recently history. But things happen. No excuses on my end. You have to deal with whatever's given to you and go out and make the best of it."

So Taylor will go out for the season opener against the Jets on Sept. 10 with a reduced salary, a diminished receiving corps, and the creeping knowledge that the team is planning to draft a quarterback high next spring.

The whispers started when the Bills traded Watkins, and they've been growing even louder since Boldin walked out the door: Tyrod is being set up to fail. How is he supposed to win a new contract under these conditions?

"Well, Tyrod's been around this league a long time, as well," coach Sean McDermott said in his first presser since the Boldin announcement. "So Tyrod knows that you adjust. Tyrod, just like the rest of our football team, is extremely resilient. He's adapted over the course of his career and he really embraces those types of situations if you will.

"That's the Tyrod I know, and I wouldn't expect anything different in this case."

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I don't imagine Taylor and his agent are "embracing" his plight, not with so much at stake financially. But he put on a resilient face. He's a pro. He knows what can happen in the NFL. He was the backup on a Ravens team that won the Super Bowl after its season seemed shot.

"In this league, you can't predict the things that happen," Taylor said when asked about the notion that he's being set up for failure. "But as a team and personally, you got to be able to adjust, keep your mind on the goal. Everything is still attainable. Keep chipping away one day at a time.

"All I can do is focus on myself and preparing each and every week. That's been my mindset since the day I was fortunate enough to play in this league."

Don't feel sorry for Tyrod. Sure, he's been dealt a tough hand. But he's also been given every chance to prove himself as a starting quarterback with the Bills. He's become a very wealthy man, whatever happens from here.

True franchise quarterbacks can't be set up to fail. They rise and fall on their own merits, their indisputable ability to make plays and carry a team, regardless of the supporting cast. Receivers don't make franchise quarterbacks, as we found with EJ Manuel. It's the other way around.

I don't recall people saying Ryan Fitzpatrick was set up to fail when he was the Bills' quarterback. When Fitz had his memorable run in 2011, before the cracked rib, he was lighting it up with Stevie Johnson, a seventh-round draft pick, and undrafted wideouts in David Nelson and Donald Jones.

No one cried for Russell Wilson when he nearly beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl with four undrafted wideouts. Ask Tom Brady if ordinary receivers can hold back a top quarterback. Go and look at some of the forgettable wideouts who have caught balls from Brady over the years.

I'm not saying better receivers wouldn't help Taylor's cause. But if a quarterback has what it takes, he finds a way to prove it. I don't think he's a franchise guy, and I suspect that the Bills don't believe it, either. But it won't be about numbers or supporting cast if he wins them over.

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In fact, it might be a good thing for Taylor to make his case with a compromised receiving corps. If he has a good year despite losing so many weapons, making quick reads, using the middle of the field more effectively, not giving up on plays against the rush, he'll make a strong case.

That's what I told Tyrod. This is a chance to tell them, 'Throw any four guys out there and I'll show you I've got what it takes.'

"Regardless of the circumstances, you have to go out and make things work," Taylor said. "That's our job as an offense, to go out and execute, whoever's on the field. Guys go down in this league. You have to continue to stay focused as a team. Like I said, my mindset is getting everyone on the same page. That way, we can go out there and play at a high level and win games."

If only it were that easy. Quarterbacks and receivers need to establish chemistry, timing, the intricacies of a pass-catch tandem that fans take for granted. You don't develop those things overnight. The Bills are asking a rookie, Zay Jones, to perform like an established veteran.

Boldin hadn't been with the team very long, but he brought a veteran's presence to a receiver group that sorely needed it. It was remarkable how appreciative Taylor and his teammates were for what Boldin gave him in his brief time in Buffalo.

"I've just got to spend more time with the guys we have here," Taylor said. "We've been building chemistry. As the receiver room gets a little shorter in depth, we've got to keep time. I've been spending more time with them, talking to them daily on and off the field."

Time moves at an accelerated pace in an NFL life. One year can seem like five. Kids become veterans in a flash. Taylor has been a Bill only three years, but it's his seventh pro season. Already, he seems conditioned to hard times, like an old man who has seen it all.

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