Tyrod Taylor isn't a pocket passer.
Anyone with a working set of eyes can recognize that.
Buffalo Bills opponents certainly do. You could almost put together a video loop of defenders from other teams – usually speaking after a victory against the Bills – who offer a boastful variation of, "We made him be a quarterback today."
Translation: Do a good enough job of playing containment to force Taylor to throw from the pocket, and you'll expose the glaring weakness of his game.
New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan was the latest to share one of the NFL's worst-kept scouting secrets with reporters after his team's 47-10 pummeling of the Bills Sunday.
Sean Payton, the Saints' coach, was just as willing to do a little self-congratulating as well on the subject of the plan that contributed to Taylor throwing for a mere 56 yards, being intercepted once, getting sacked twice, and finishing with a career-low passer rating of 33.6.
"One of the things we wanted to do defensively is try to contain Tyrod," Payton said. "He's an exceptional quarterback when he's outside of the pocket, and I thought we did a really good job, for the most part, of keeping him at that launch point (in the pocket)."
He's an exceptional quarterback when he's outside of the pocket.
Those are the words of one of the foremost offensive gurus in the NFL, someone whose knowledge of quarterbacks and the passing game in general is second to none.
You would think that observation might register with Bills coach Sean McDermott and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison.
In his last two games, Taylor has tried – and mostly failed – to make throws from the pocket. Some of it was due to how the Saints and the New York Jets, in their 34-21 beat-down of the Bills on Nov. 2, implemented and executed their contain-centric defensive schemes. (Terrible pass protection that resulted in seven sacks was another factor in the disaster against the Jets).
But some of it also resulted from what Taylor's coaches are asking him to do. Having a quarterback work primarily from the pocket is, or at least has been, part of the basic design of the Bills' passing game. Through offseason and training-camp practices, there was no mistaking that making Taylor "be a quarterback" was, in fact, a priority of the Bills' new decision-makers.
Except, of course, that anyone who has watched Taylor since he became the team's starter in 2014 knows he's far more effective when rolling out. As he has proven time and again, he is clearly more comfortable with doing that than dropping back and scanning the secondary.
And when he's on the edges, Taylor becomes far more effective as a ball-carrier, where his skill separates him from pretty much every other quarterback in the NFL.
If you're the Bills and your intention is to stick with Taylor as your starter – something McDermott said was the case right after Sunday's game and reiterated Monday – then it would seem to make sense to do everything possible to maximize his output.
If that means using more plays that put Taylor on the move from the moment he takes the snap, do it. If that means adjusting the blocking scheme to counter the opponents' efforts to take away the outside, do it.
Otherwise, you're essentially doing your opponents a favor by helping to set Taylor up for failure. Making plays on the move is what he does best.
Let him move.
Or don't, and put the offense in the hands of rookie Nathan Peterman, the quarterback on the roster who is more proficient at working from the pocket. In his brief fourth-quarter relief work Sunday, Peterman functioned exactly as McDermott and Dennison want Taylor to function. He dropped back, surveyed the coverage and decisively delivered passes.
McDermott said Peterman "did some good things" in completing seven of 10 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown and no interceptions (for a 126.7 passer rating) with the game well out of reach. The coach also said he understood where the remaining fans at New Era Field were coming from by giving their loudest non-streaker-related cheer of the day when Peterman entered the game.
One could easily assume that McDermott could very well be on the same page as the fans regarding the preference to see more of Peterman, even though he says Taylor is still the starter. It might even be fair to say McDermott, at the very least, wants to see Taylor deliver more of the type of quarterbacking that Peterman showed.
This has the makings of an awkward dance that could play out through the final seven weeks of the regular season.
As long as the Bills remain in the playoff hunt, Taylor figures to remain the starter. But if he isn't consistently allowed to do what he does best and the offense continues to sputter, a switch to Peterman would seem logical, if not inevitable.