Something has to change offensively

If Rick Dennison is unwilling to change the core principles of his offense dramatically, they should strongly consider making a change to Nathan Peterman.

Nate Geary
November 13, 2017 - 8:58 pm

Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports


I usually like to wait until Tuesday night after I get home from work to watch the All-22 before I make judgments on a game, but you don’t need a bird’s eye view to comprehend the hot garbage we saw on Sunday by the Bills' offense. 

There’s no denying the Bills were gashed by the Saints’ two-headed backfield of Alvin Kamara (106 yards, 1 TD) and Mark Ingram (131 yards, 3 TDs). You could tell from the very first defensive possession that it was going to be a long day. 

I don’t think Sean Payton used the same personnel groupings twice all game long. They moved Michael Thomas to every position on the field. They put him in slot situations where he was going head-to-head with Ramon Humber – advantage Drew Brees. 

The defense was bad. The offense was bad.

I want to make sure I’m clear: I’m not here to tell you Tyrod Taylor had a good football game. He didn’t. But if you think that loss is on him, you’re wrong. 

Watching Monday Night Football, they were showing how Miami has had issues defending the zone read and the speed option. They used an example from last season's Week 16 loss in overtime where Taylor gashed the Dolphins on read option out of pistol sets, utilizing Taylor’s athletic ability. 

From the very beginning, I questioned the fit in this offense. Taylor simply doesn’t have the trigger to play in a tempo-based passing attack built on timing and ball placement. Just the basic principles of this scheme suggest there isn’t a fit. Yet, I look back at the 2016 season and see how vital Taylor was to the league's best-running attack and look at this offense through 10 weeks and just don’t see the same willingness or effectiveness. 

I just think the play calling has absolutely set Taylor up for failure – better yet, it’s protected him in a way I haven’t seen since Trent Edwards. On a given play, especially on 3rd and long situations, Taylor’s lucky to have one receiver running a route at, or near the line of scrimmage. That’s essentially relying on a group of receivers who aren’t overly athletic, to catch a ball from a quarterback who isn’t great at leading receivers to run 8-plus yards after the catch. 

The Bills managed to get to a place offensively where their top-ranked rushing attack, two years running, is a shell of itself. Their starting right guard from that very same running offense is now in street clothes every week because they’ve deemed he isn’t worthy of a gameday roster spot. 

What’s most frustrating though is what they’re asking Taylor to do as a passer, which at this point we can just say is basically nothing. In their first four drives offensively, they ran the same swing pass to LeSean McCoy [twice to the left side and once to the right] where there were no reads. The receivers split out wide were simply blockers; these were designed swing plays with no read to make - three attempts and two completions running the same play. 

By my count, nine pass attempts by Taylor came within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Count the handful of balls he threw away or out-of-bounds, and there aren’t many attempts left that traveled further than five yards. Truthfully, I’m not sure who to pin that on more. Part of me wants Taylor to stretch the field and throw to guys when they’re open for only a moment. I want him to trust his eyes and make a throw that isn’t a guarantee. 

There aren’t a lot of easy answers here for this offense. If Rick Dennison is unwilling to change the core principles of his offense dramatically, they should strongly consider making a change to Nathan Peterman. 

I’m at a point where I still wholeheartedly believe Taylor is the best option for this team. At 5-4, I worry what a change at quarterback might do to the locker room dynamic. But if this offense is going to continue to ask its quarterback to make throws on their third step, make anticipatory throws regularly within the hash marks and give their receivers an opportunity to win a 50/50 ball – then the choice is clear. 

We’re at the ultimate crossroads with Taylor. He’ll likely move on this offseason to a team like the Arizona Cardinals. Personally, I think if Ben Roethlisberger really intends to retire like he’s made mention of a number of times, that Taylor could end up in Pittsburgh. 

But no matter whom it’s for, Taylor is a starting quarterback in the NFL, and he’ll likely have another opportunity with a coach willing to design an offense that resembles the Chiefs and Eagles. But that doesn’t matter now because he’s playing for a coach who seems unwilling to modify the core passing principles of the offense significantly. 

I don’t think a change happens this week, but I think that might change if the offense has the same struggles this week against the Chargers. It’s going to be a difficult test against another good defense and a coach who knows Taylor very well. It’s tough, but Taylor’s got the shortest leash of any quarterback I can remember in the drought for this fan base. Unfortunately, it appears to be a relationship coming to an end.

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