Tyrod Taylor’s Next Big Challenge: Beating the Blitz

This offseason Tyrod Taylor turned down more guaranteed money from the Denver Broncos opting to instead compete for the Buffalo Bills starting job. Now that the fifth-year quarterback has locked that spot down, he’s facing a whole new set of challenges ahead.

Through three preseason games T-Mobile has shown a little bit of everything with his ability to throw from the pocket, throw on the run and scramble for positive yards. Even if most teams play a ‘vanilla’ or very basic defense in the preseason, it’s fair to be excited about Taylor running Greg Romans’ offense. With the regular season quickly approaching one of the biggest challenges #5 will immediately face is dealing with the blitz.

(AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)
(AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)

It’s a known strategy in the NFL to send pressure at young and inexperienced quarterbacks. It forces them to speed up the decision-making process and can often lead to mistakes. While Taylor did spend four years backing up Joe Flacco in Baltimore, his regular season playing time in the NFL has been very limited. Because of that lack of experience don’t be surprised to see opposing defensive coordinator’s sending extra guys until Tyrod proves he can handle it.

Take a look at Mike Glennon of the Tampa Buccaneers for example; as he was blitzed on 42% of his drop-backs in 2014 while Geno Smith saw pressure 38% of the time the year before, both league highs. It’s not just below-average quarterbacks that teams send extra pressure to either as the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson was blitzed the third most in the NFL last season.

Wilson will probably continue to see pressure this year too because he was only the 20th-ranked quarterback while facing the blitz in 2014, according to Pro Football Focus. The Bills are hoping Taylor can be its version of Wilson 2.0 given their similar size and physical skill sets. So what can Buffalo’s newest starting quarterback do to be successful while under pressure? There are quite a few strategies actually.

First of all Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman will look to establish the ground game in effect keeping the defense honest and off balance. Outside of your usual running plays the QB read-option is a weapon that can keep edge defenders at bay too. He also likes to call quick passes or screens which usually can be executed before pressure reaches the quarterback. Avoiding long third downs by methodically moving the ball will be paramount to keeping the heat off of #5.

Taylor will also need to immediately identify who’s the hot-read or safety-valve out of his pass catchers and trust them to be there if he needs to get the ball out quickly. One of the best ways to beat the blitz is to stand in the pocket and deliver strikes as the defense is usually undermanned in the secondary. Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady are the best at this as they led the league in performance while facing a blitz in 2014.

Buffalo’s receivers can also help their quarterback by noticing the pressure and adjusting their routes accordingly. This typically requires good timing and rapport between players and will be something to watch considering Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin and Robert Woods all missed significant time during training camp.

Another couple of ways Tyrod can beat the blitz is by recognizing it pre-snap and by making smart, concise decisions. From what we’ve seen in August and according to some of his teammates, Taylor has been “on-point” with his audibles at the line which will come in handy during the regular season. Being able to identify and locate the defenders who are blitzing or at least showing pressure is crucial for every quarterback to be effective.

Being smart and making the best decision plays into this as Taylor needs to know when to tuck it and go and when to just throw the ball away. On a play against the Carolina Panthers in the first preseason game, he was pressured and tried to escape when there was nothing open and ended up taking a big sack instead of just getting rid of the ball. He showed improvement in recognizing this in his next couple outings but will need to continually make the right call.

Beyond just extra pressure there are plenty of other looks and challenges that opposing defenses will throw at him. Consistently beating the blitz however will be an immediate step in the right direction for Tyrod Taylor to be a successful starting quarterback in the NFL.