It hasn’t exactly been all peaches and cream for the Buffalo Bills this offseason. The team has dealt with out of shape players, injuries and suspensions to star players.
The irony of it all is the Bills were a team unsure about their quarterback heading into the summer, but now at the end of August, he remains perhaps the only saving grace on the roster.
Initially, Buffalo was doing a fine job of patiently waiting to offer quarterback Tyrod Taylor a contract extension, but the team caved the first week of August, signing him to a six-year, $92 million deal with another $23 million available through incentives.
Taylor showed flashes of what it takes to be a franchise quarterback, but there were still several concerns which caused the Bills to balk at the idea of a long-term deal.
Far too often, Taylor would miss wide open receivers downfield, and during the second half, he really struggled with his accuracy. After having a completion percentage over 70 percent through early November, Taylor posted a 57.8 completion percentage in the final seven games.
A slow release was Taylor’s biggest problem. The 27-year-old took 36 sacks on just 416 drop backs, giving him a 8.7 sack percentage. Among quarterbacks with at least 300 pass attempts last year, that was fourth-highest in the league behind Alex Smith, Teddy Bridgewater and Marcus Mariota.
Furthermore, the Bills really struggled as a team in offensive efficiency. Buffalo finished 21st in third down conversion percentage and 24th in red zone efficiency. Obviously, Taylor wasn’t the only reason for those low rankings, but being the quarterback, he has to take a majority of the responsibility.
Even still, there was plenty to like about Taylor’s game. He may have taken more sacks, but the result was fewer interceptions and more big plays. He had just six interceptions in 14 starts and finished fifth in the NFL with a 7.99 yards per attempt average. And despite the accuracy problems later in the year, he still completed 63.7 percent of his throws overall. It’s also important to keep in mind that Taylor appeared in 14 games prior to last season and never started a game before 2015. He more than doubled his experienced level last year. Taylor might already be 27, but his upside is still there because he should theoretically continue to get better in his second year as a starter.
With the Bills having such a tumultuous summer, the team could really use some stability anywhere on its roster, but it would be even better if it could come under center.
Other teams in the NFL — such as New England and Pittsburgh — have had tough months or offseasons, but there isn’t as much of a concern for them because they are steady at the quarterback position. Part of the drama with the Patriots is obviously Tom Brady’s suspension, but no one is worried about how he will play once he returns. The injuries piling up on the New England roster isn’t necessarily a problem either because a great quarterback can solve a lot of issues in the NFL.
Same goes with the Steelers. Pittsburgh will for sure miss Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant the first three weeks and perhaps be without Ladarius Green too. On defense, Senquez Golson suffered another injury this month, and James Harrison is still a question mark. But with Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers can still be a contender.
Taylor’s second year was supposed to be his opportunity to prove he deserves a franchise quarterback contract. Well, he already received that, so now is the time he earns it and leads his team through a difficult time.
Nothing masks drama better than great quarterback play.