New England Patriots Passing Defense vs Buffalo Bills Passing Offense
Although Tyrod Taylor kept Arizona’s defense off balance by using his legs, his accuracy and decision-making abilities in the pocket as a passer are still in question. Taylor’s passing performance against the Cardinals last week (14 for 25 for 119 yards and one interception) is fine when the team rushes for 200 yards, but Buffalo has identified him (and are paying him) as their present and future quarterback.
Reviewing the film of Taylor, he still is an inexperienced passer and will struggle to find open receivers. Like many young quarterbacks, he is often unable to use his elusiveness and footwork to maintain the pocket and rather than buy time to throw, he will tuck and run. The Buffalo passing game plan has not helped him much either as rather than calling for quick reads and throws like the New England offense, Taylor has to sit in the pocket and wait for receivers to get downfield. His short passing–when called for him–tends to be accurate and on time.
Taylor had an impressive first season in Buffalo but he struggled mightily in his two matchups against Bill Belichick, Matt Patricia, and the Patriots in 2015. Look for the Patriots to plan to again keep Taylor in the pocket. The first step is stopping the run and putting Taylor and the Bills in second and third down and long situations.
It does not help that Buffalo may be without their best wide receiver, Sammy Watkins, who is questionable and is dealing with a nagging foot injury. Other than running back LeSean McCoy, the Bills’ offense lacks effective receivers for Taylor to throw to in the passing game. Tight end Charles Clay, who is being paid more than Rob Gronkowski, had no catches in week three and does not help much as a blocker.
The best news for the Buffalo passing offense was that left tackle Cordy Glenn returned to practice this week as a limited participant. His backup, Cyrus Kouandjio, did not practice at all. The Bills’ tackle situation is questionable (Jordan Mills does not inspire much confidence on the right side) although the interior of the offensive line with guards John Miller and Richie Incognito and center Eric Wood are solid.
The Patriots front-seven should attack the edges of the offensive line with Jabaal Sheard, Trey Flowers, and Chris Long. Long has already been one of the better free-agent additions in the league through the first three weeks, as Long has been fantastic. With the dearth of pass rushers in the NFL the Patriots have managed to find impact players at reasonable prices the past two seasons in free agency with Sheard and Long.
Beyond the front seven bringing consistent pressure so far in 2016, the Patriots had their secondary back on track and shut down the not-quite-potent-but-not-terrible Houston passing attack. Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler should be able to handle a hampered Watkins (if he plays) and Robert Woods, Greg Salas (slowed by a groin injury) and Marquise Goodwin (in concussion protocols). Charles Clay will likely see a lot of safety Patrick Chung in coverage.
If the Patriots are able to shut down the Bills’ running game and make Taylor stand back in the pocket it will be a long day for the Bills.