Selected in the sixth-round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Tyrod Taylor went from being the big man on Virginia Tech's campus to being a depth player buried on the Baltimore Ravens' depth chart. Comeing out of Virginia Tech, most scouts believed Taylor was destined to play receiver at the NFL level, but the Ravens left him primarily as a quarterback, backing up Joe Flacco - though he did make various appearances as a wide receiver.
This year, Taylor signed as a free agent with the Buffalo Bills, ultimately earning the starting job over E.J. Manuel and Matt Cassel. In two games this seasson, Taylor has thrown for 437 yards on 75.5-percent completions with four touchdowns and three interceptions. He has also rushed 14 times for 84 yards with a score.
In the team's first game, a win over the Indianapolis Colts, Taylor looked good. The Bills game planned to protect Taylor, allowing him to use his strengths, while shying away from his weaknesses. Last week against the New England Patriots, the Bills had to open up the offense, playing catchup for most of the game, and Taylor, while not bad, was clearly not as sharp. He threw three touchdowns against the Patriots, but also threw three interceptions.
What should the Miami Dolphins, who host the Bills on Sunday, expect when Taylor takes the field?
Taylor appears to struggle in the pocket. He does not yet trust his offensive line, and would rather use his legs when he feels pressure. He does not have the pocket presence of an experienced passer, looking to bail out of the pocket rather than stepping up into the pocket.
It is very similar to what Ryan Tanehill's first year as a starter looked like. Getting used to the speed of the NFL and the way a pocket forms is not easy, and it will take Taylor some time to get used to it. Although now in his fifth year, this is weekend will only be the third start of Taylor's career; he just does not have the pocket presence yet. The Dolphins need to try to force him to stay in the pocket, making him either panic or throw the ball uncomfortably.
"For the most part, I think we're doing pretty well," wide receiver Sammy Watkins told reporters recently.. "We just got to eliminate the turnovers. We got to move the ball down the field, for the most part. I think Tyrod got to gain trust in the lineman. We got to gain trust from Tyrod. And I think once we get everybody to trust each other, it'll be much easier."
Outside the pocket is a different story, and another one that should sound familiar. Taylor is extremely accurate as he rolls out of a pocket, keeping his eyes down field and looking for a way to make a play even as he escapes pressure. It's exactly what we see from Tannehill as he rolls out of the pocket, looking for anyone who is coming opne. If the Dolphins allow Taylor to escape the pocket, the defensive backs have to stay disciplined to ensure they do not allow a big play.
The Dolphins defense has struggled through the first two games of the year. Now, they are facing a quarterback making just his third start, and one that is not comfortable in the pocket. They have to be able to take advantage of that, and they have to repeatedly get into Taylor's face, while the edge rushers staying disciplined.
(H/T to Buffalo Rumblings' Jon Ramsey, who used the graphics linked in his story "The ups and downs of Tyrod Taylor.")