Tyrod Taylor under spotlight with Karlos Williams out


Buffalo Bills offseason trade acquisition LeSean McCoy won’t return to the field for a few more weeks, and to make matters worse, the Bills now have to deal with two additional injuries at the running back position. Dan “Boom” Herron, who was signed earlier this week, is poised to form a 1-2 punch with veteran Anthony Dixon this week, and if that weren’t enough, Dixon himself is less than 100% due to a calf injury.

ALSO ON SPIN ZONE: Where does Taylor rank among starting QBs?

All of this is because rookie Karlos Williams will not be able to play this week. The Bills have formally ruled out Williams after he suffered a concussion in last week’s loss to the New York Giants, and he simply never had a realistic shot at suiting up. Williams missed every practice session this week, and his absence puts an immense amount of pressure on Tyrod Taylor.

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The Bills starting quarterback in 2015 has faced plenty of pressure this season and has handled it as well as a first-year starter could, but he’ll be squarely under the spotlight this week against the Tennessee Titans. He won’t have to lead the Bills offense to many scoring drives this week, as he’s backed up by an elite defense that will be facing off against a weak offense. However, the Titans are fifth in the NFL in scoring offense right now, though putting up 33 on the Bills is a lot harder than feasting on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts.

Taylor will face a below-average pass defense that has been quite prone to getting beat vertically, but the Titans have managed to intercept four passes this season. If there are two things Taylor has struggled with the most this season, then they are holding onto the ball for too long and throwing too many interceptions.

Through four games, Taylor has thrown four interceptions, and that’s something the Titans will have to pounce on this week. Because if Michael Griffin and the NFL’s 20th-ranked defense in net yards per pass attempt allowed can’t force turnovers, then they could be in for a long day.

We all know just how dangerous Taylor is as a deep passer, but what gets talked about less is his 71.7% completion percentage. He’s tearing through defenses to the tune of an average of two touchdowns and 247.0 passing yards per game, putting up 8.2 yards per attempt. Taylor has been as efficient as any quarterback this season, and that, combined with his mobility, has made him a nightmare for most defenses.

In fact, only the New England Patriots had a consistent answer for Tyrod Taylor throughout the game, though the Giants did do a pretty good job of holding him in check last week. You could say that Taylor’s display against New York was a disappointment, considering the fact that the Giants have several weaknesses over the middle of the field on pass defense.

The Titans pass rush has, as expected, proven to be extremely dangerous this season, as the elite edge rushing duo of Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan has combined well behind offensive line-wrecker Jurrell Casey at defensive end. It’s a pass rush that has the firepower to throw quarterbacks off of their game, and the Bills young right side of the offensive line can clearly be exploited.

It’s unclear just how good or bad the Titans pass defense is, but what is clear is that Taylor will have to carry the offense this week. Worse running backs than Herron and Dixon could be capable of moving the ball on the ground against Tennessee’s subpar run defense, but the drop-off from Williams to Herron/Dixon should be huge. Karlos Williams has run the ball very well this season, notching plenty of yards after contact en route to 5.4 yards per carry, 56.4 yards per game, and three touchdowns on 42 carries so far this season.

That’s what the Bills offense and Taylor will be missing on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. ET, but nobody will bet against the Bills to run their record to 3-2.

Oct 4, 2015; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) during the game against the New York Giants at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Only one team has allowed a lower completion percentage on defense than the Titans this season, but, likewise, only one team has allowed more yards per reception than Tennessee.

It’s this split that actually favors the Bills, because Taylor has the arm strength and a legit deep threat in Percy Harvin. With Sammy Watkins questionable and seemingly unlikely to suit up, that takes a big weapon out of Taylor’s arsenal, but he’s shown that he can deliver without his most talented receiver.

What should worry the Bills the most is the fact that the Titans are fifth in the league in Sack%, and that pass rush can pin its ears back if Herron and Dixon can’t pick up the void left by Williams. That can allow the Titans to focus more on preventing the deep ball, which puts the focus on Taylor.

In this case, “under the spotlight” doesn’t necessarily mean that Taylor is in a tough spot, but, rather, it means that this is the type of game he can use as a platform to shine. He’s already impressed Bills fans and others around the league, but this is the type of game where he can really assert himself as the Bills “guy”.

No Williams? No Shady? Possibly no Watkins? It’s Taylor’s time to shine, and he’s shown that he is capable of leading an offense, so we’ll see what he can put together against the Titans burn-prone-but-not-terrible defense on Sunday.

Next: Who are the NFL's best running backs?

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