2 - Can Tyrod Taylor perform like a franchise quarterback?
July 26, 2017 11:00 AM | Chris Brown

Camp Countdown presented by M&T Bank will examine some of the more pressing issues facing the team on the field as they make their final preparations for the regular season. We also focus on a few different areas that impact the team off the field. We'll address these subjects one at a time until training camp begins. Here now is the latest daily installment as we carefully probe for some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 27th and the Sept. 10th opener at New Era Field against the New York Jets.

It's a level of play Bills fans have been craving at the quarterback position for a long time. The type of week to week performance that can carry Buffalo's offense. The last two years it's been the Bills run game that has carried their attack. Along the way Tyrod Taylor in his two seasons as a starter has made some improvements in his game. Can he take the next step and play franchise caliber ball?

Here are some signs that he's moving in the right direction, as well as some factors that could positively impact his play.

Improved vision
If there is a criticism amongst Bills fans about Tyrod Taylor's game, the common refrain has been that he has not sufficiently utilized open targets in the middle of the field. In his first year as a starter that criticism had merit. As last season wore on however, Taylor's vision between the numbers noticeably improved.

Validation came in his last two starts in 2016 against the Browns and the Dolphins. Tight end Charles Clay was one of his most popular targets in both of those games. With the two opposing defenses daring him to use the middle of the field, Taylor obliged in a big way. Over those two games Clay was targeted 17 times, made 15 receptions with two of them going for touchdowns. Almost all of those plays were made in the middle of the field. Unfortunately Taylor was deprived of the opportunity to further develop that part of his game in the season finale, but making those plays in the middle of the field from the pocket was an encouraging sign.

"To be in this league whether it's Tyrod or whoever, you have to make plays consistently from the pocket," said GM Brandon Beane. "The quarterbacks that are succeeding year after year after year consistently make plays from the pocket. That's what the franchise quarterback will have to do."

With taller targets also on the roster in Andre Holmes and Zay Jones it should only serve to benefit Taylor in the pass game.

Better scheme fit
Over the last two years, Taylor made great use of his legs to help vault Buffalo's run game into the top spot in the league the last two years. He ran for better than 500 yards each of the last two seasons. While the Bills new offensive scheme will make use of Taylor's legs, it will be done with a different goal in mind.

Designed rollouts and moving pockets are expected to improve Taylor's field of view and put added pressure on defenses knowing at any moment Taylor could tuck the ball and run. An effective passer on the move, Buffalo's signal caller is excited about where he can take his personal game in Dennison's scheme.

"I definitely think I can take it to the next level, it's something that I've focused on throughout this offseason, which is to continue to keep digesting the offense and trying to be better at it each day," said Taylor. "This offense allows us to spread the ball around, allows me to get on the edge with the keepers, and matching up with the run game that we're doing. I like it."

Head coach Sean McDermott had called Taylor a perfect fit for the team's offensive scheme. Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison however, cares less about fit and more about ability.

"Right fit or not he's a good player," said Dennison of Taylor. "He throws the ball well. He's athletic so he can do some of the stuff we want to do when we move him out of the pocket. But I've had quarterbacks that aren't as gifted that can still get that done because they have to defend the run. With the guys we have up front and LeSean (McCoy) I think we can run the ball pretty doggone good. So they will have to defend a lot of the field."

Driven to excel
After toiling in obscurity the first four years of his career as a backup in Baltimore, Taylor bet on himself in a three-man quarterback competition in 2015. He came out of it with the starting job and since then has done everything in his power to improve his personal game. Despite being with his second coaching staff in Buffalo, his work ethic has left his coaches impressed and confident that he's the right leader for this team right now.

"He knows what he's doing. He knows where everybody is and he's a good leader in the huddle and I think he's doing a good job," said Dennison. "His work habits are as great as they were (in Baltimore). He's working his tail off. He's watching film and even doing work outside the building."

"I've really been impressed with the leadership, the intangible qualities that are inherent or must be inherent to that quarterback position," said McDermott. "I've watched develop in those areas and that's important as we look to move forward. There's leadership qualities at that quarterback position that are important to winning football games and I think he's done a nice job in that area."

Taylor's quest to improve with every snap he takes and subsequently reviews should continue to push his game forward. How far he's able to take it is difficult to gauge, but it won't be for lack of effort.

"The reps that I'm getting are definitely key to my success and I'm taking each one very seriously, even the ones that I'm not on the field, just trying to better myself as a whole, as a player, and being a better teammate and leader and everything. I've been focusing on my feet and patience in the pocket. But I pick something different within the offense each day. Anything I can do to better my game and help this offense get to the next level I'm all for it."

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