Just a few months ago, anyone who suggested that Tyrod Taylor may be a better quarterback than Ryan Tannehill would have gotten laughed at. Now, as a whole, Tannehill is still the much better choice, but to suggest that Taylor has been better this year, especially last week, has merit.
Neither the Bills or Dolphins offensive coordinator is particularly wonderful, though Buffalo’s Greg Roman has gotten off to a much hotter start than Miami’s Bill Lazor. Roman has done well creating passing lanes for Taylor and maximizing his full skill set, and that showed versus Miami. On the opposite sideline, Lazor did not do much to manufacture space for Tannehill to throw to. Coordinating aside, the passers themselves played an equal factor in this blow out.
Taylor has risen above his expectations for the season, thus far. He has thrived in this offense, taking advantage of what the defense gives him to do so. Taylor has been asked to move from the pocket a lot, whether it be some sort of option play or a play action roll out. This is the best way to maximize Taylor. He has the speed; taking advantage of Tyrod’s athleticism to force defenses to account for him creates extra space in coverage.
As much as Taylor’s athletic ability opens things up, some of Roman’s play designs create plenty of room on their own. So long as Taylor recognizes the defense, the pass can typically turn into an easy completion.
Take this red zone play, for example. Taylor motions his receiver from right to left and the defensive back follows, indicating man coverage (Buffalo used shifts often to try to expose the coverage). The already moving receiver shoots out to the flat at the snap of the ball while the tight end on that side of the formation runs a sort of corner route to cut off the defensive back chasing the motioned receiver. This downfield “rub” forces the defensive back to take an adjustment step or two, giving just enough space for the motioned receiver to pick up a solid gain.
Plays like this, as well as crossing routes, were staples of Roman’s offense against Miami. Many of these plays required some sort of play action to catch the defense slipping. Due to the success of the Bills rushing attack, Miami’s linebackers were constantly cheating up to play the run. With Miami giving Taylor the space he needed to work the field, he was able to pick apart the Miami defense.
Roman and Taylor picked on Miami’s linebackers all day. Short outs, crossing routes, shoots out of the backfield- you name it, Buffalo was calling it to abuse Miami’s linebackers. The most glaring example of linebacker manipulation came in the second quarter.
Here, the Bills ran double tight end crossing routes- the cornerstone to everyone’s offense in Madden 07. Miami’s right linebacker doesn’t realize that it is a double cross, so he stays under the tight end crossing from left to right. The tight end crossing from right to left gets a free run over the middle of the field. What’s concerning from Taylor is that this play was executed marvelously by everyone but him. Taylor needs to fire this ball as soon as he sees the right linebacker move to the left. Getting this ball out quickly to the tight end would have given him plenty of room to run with only one immediate defender to beat. Alas, Taylor is still susceptible to shooting himself in the foot, even with his other developments.
Tannehill played in complete opposite fashion of Taylor. Throughout the game, Tannehill threw the ball with precision all over the field, but some of his decisions were questionable. Contrary to his normal style of play, Tannehill forced the ball down field a lot versus Buffalo. While this should typically be encouraged, Tannehill was forcing these throws into coverage and was intercepted on one of such attempts. That particular play seemed to be more of a miscommunication than a patently poor decision, to be fair. Nonetheless, Tannehill was far more reckless than usual on throws beyond 15 yards. Despite the over-zealousness, Tannehill threw with efficiency for most of the game.
Ten yard outs/hooks and crossing routes of all depths were Tannehill’s go-to in trying to dice Buffalo’s defense. Overall, Tannehill lead his receivers for extra yards and put the ball where only his men could get, if necessary. His best throw of the night, a touchdown to Rishard Matthews, was a crossing route placed with perfection around defenders.
Although, Tannehill’s accuracy was almost a shame because of his struggles with getting the ball out. Tannehill was holding the ball too long, not to mention he was doing so against one of the best defensive fronts in football. By the time he decided to throw, a defender would be in his face to shut down the play, one way or another.
The unnecessary pause in releasing this ball allows the edge defender to notice that Tannehill is throwing the ball that way, stop and swat the ball away. Had Tannehill gotten to the top of his drop and snapped out of it to complete the throw, Miami almost certainly moves up the field on this play. Tannehill could have even turned to the crosser underneath for a much easier throw, though he did not do that either.
Again, Tannehill does not throw the short crosser. Tannehill had plenty of room to make a quick throw, but he opts to drop his eyes and sprint away from the oncoming defender. With none of the routes being on the side that Tannehill bailed out to, the play was wasted, whereas it could have gone for at least a short gain.
The two quarterbacks played vastly different on their Sunday matchup. One, Taylor, executed his offense well despite accuracy some troubles with getting the ball where it needed to be, while Tannehill made a handful of poor decisions but threw exceptionally well when he made the correct decision. At the end of the fourth quarter, it was Taylor’s style of taking what the defense gives up that prevailed and put up a stunning 41 points. Tannehill is typically more impressive than this and Taylor may not be able to sustain this quality of play, but it is tough to argue that Taylor was not the better quarterback last weekend.