Taylor has much more to prove

September 10, 2017

The latest Rex Ryan Bowl was one that likely would’ve made him proud.

If he hadn’t, you know, been fired by both the Jets and Bills.

How much extra attention the one-time coach turned ESPN analyst paid to Sunday’s season opener at New Era Field between his ex-teams is a query for another time, but for those who bore witness to Bills 21, Jets 12, the question is what to make of Tyrod Taylor.

Is he still a work in progress? Is he maturing into a quarterback who can manage a game? Or is he still a question mark on a team for which little is expected in 2017?

And there is no real answer to be gleaned simply because it is suboptimal to read much into Taylor’s performance against a Jets squad which appears to be angling for the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Taylor was effective against the Jets, completing 16 of 28 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Both scores were one-yard dumpoffs to Charles Clay and Andre Holmes. Taylor was also picked once. On the game-opening drive, the Bills had driven from their 25-yard line to the Jets’ 8, and on third down the 180th selection in the 2011 draft threw a pass which appeared to ricochet off of Clay’s hands into Juston Burris’. However a three-and-out made the interception a moot point.

To augment his solid passing day, Taylor also ran eight times for 38 yards, while showing elusiveness in the pocket to avoid the Jets’ pass rush as he was sacked just twice.

In all, he played well. But there is a significant difference between playing well in a win against the Jets in September and playing well in a win against, say, the Patriots in December with a playoff berth at stake. So perhaps a better evaluation of Taylor will come in the next four games against the Panthers, Broncos, NFC Champion Falcons and Bengals.

Following those games, the Bills will be at their bye week and perhaps a more complete analysis of Taylor’s play can begin to be compiled. Until then, what would the Bills need to see from their starting quarterback?

Essentially, game management. Outside of his one interception and the two sacks, Taylor did not hurt the Bills. He was aided by a strong running game and a defensive effort which limited the anemic Jets offense to 12 points (two field goals and a one-yard Josh McCown touchdown plunge), 55 plays and 214 yards in 26:56 of possession time.

New York’s running back tandem of Matt Forte (six carries for 16 yards) and Bilal Powell (seven rushes for 22 yards) was limited to 38 yards on 13 attempts, essentially forcing McCown to win the game. McCown did complete 26 of 39 passes for 176 yards, but was picked off twice late in the fourth quarter by Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde.

By comparison, LeSean McCoy (22 carries for 110 yards; five catches for 49 yards) and Mike Tolbert (12 rushes for 42 yards and a one yard touchdown; one catch for 12 yards) tag-teamed the Jets defense for 152 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries, which led the Bills to having 33 minutes and four seconds of possession.

Ryan firmly believed adding a ball control offense to a defense that can limit opponents to one dimension is a formula for success during his tenures at One Jets Drive and One Bills Drive. For a team lacking explosive offensive playmakers, it may be the only way the Bills to be competitive, to say nothing of winning.

But in order for the Bills to smoothly implement that blueprint, a mistake-minimizing Taylor will be key. An above-average performance against arguably the worst team in the league didn’t tell us much.

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Denis Gorman
About Denis Gorman

Denis Gorman is a contributor to The Buffalo Star and a veteran sportswriter who also freelances for AP. His work has been featured in over 20 newspapers, covering the four major pro leagues as well as College Football, College Basketball, Arena Football, the WNBA and the MISL.

Browse more articles by Denis Gorman.

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