Kelvin Benjamin might not realize it yet, but he should be hopeful about the shift from Tyrod Taylor to Nathan Peterman.
One of Taylor's best assets is his superb protection of the football, his extreme avoidance of interceptions. But he takes that trait to a fault with his reluctance to pull the trigger.
As has been written and said so many times, Taylor is not an anticipation passer. He doesn't "throw guys open."
It was evidenced again – not a lot, but at a few key times – in Sunday's loss to New Orleans.
A key play was a Taylor "no-trigger" checkdown pass to LeSean McCoy for a 1-yard gain in the second quarter. The Bills were down, 14-3. They needed to get something going on offense. Benjamin ran a 17-yard out against a Saints Cover 2 zone defense. The window was tight because the back safety was starting to close on the receiver. But Benjamin was open if the pass was delivered just as he made his break and the ball was high enough to get over the underneath cornerback.
The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Benjamin is classic "open-when-he's-not-open" receiver. He has a giant catch radius. He can box out cornerbacks. He's not often going to create quick, initial separation to make it an obvious open look for the quarterback. Benjamin's quarterback needs to have good, high ball placement and needs to trust that Benjamin will come down with it.
Taylor has shown some progress in throwing from the pocket. He doesn't look to escape as quickly as in the past. He has waited late in the down for guys to get open a bit more this year. Taylor's average time to release the ball still is third longest in the league (2.82 seconds), according to Pro Football Focus. However, that figure is going to be inflated because the Bills run so many more rollouts and bootlegs than some teams. (Derek Carr is fastest at 2.17 seconds.) But Taylor still is not an anticipation passer. After he has made 38 starts in the past three years, it's hard to see him becoming that kind of quarterback.
Peterman showed good anticipation in a pass for Benjamin at the start of the Bills' fourth-quarter touchdown drive against the Saints. It was a first-down play from the Buffalo 46 with the Saints again in a Cover 2 defense. Two Bills receivers were open on check-down passes. Peterman released the ball for Benjamin on a 17-yard in-cut before Benjamin had started to turn around. The play was a 21-yard gain. If Peterman hesitated, the underneath cornerback would have been in good position to break up or intercept the pass.
Can Peterman avoid interceptions? How quickly will he be able to process the many fronts and coverage defenses will throw at him? We will see.
But the Bills in general – and Benjamin in particular – need more anticipation passes to take a leap forward on offense.