For all the talk about a new-look Buffalo Bills team, an awful lot still looks the same. LeSean McCoy is on pace for 1,100 yards rushing. McCoy and the tight end are among the leading receivers. Three or four wide receivers divide the few remaining targets. Tyrod Taylor is on track for his third straight year with 3,000 yards passing and about 17 touchdowns with only five or six interceptions.
But something is changing. For one thing, the Bills own a winning record at 5-2. The defense is playing better. But the biggest difference is probably in the mindset of the Bills and their coaching staff. Everyone seems relaxed, informed, and sold on what they are doing.
That is no small feat when you consider how the Bills’ new management team started things off. Valuable veterans were traded or allowed to walk away. Role players replaced stars. The head coach told reporters if he had to run LeSean McCoy 100 times a game to win that’s what he would do. Was McCoy not in their plans, either? Would they really run him until he dropped? There was talk of Buffalo tanking the season to get a top quarterback in next year’s draft.
But not in the Buffalo locker room. There was no hostility or rebellion sensed by anybody. They bought into the coach’s program. The defense was revitalized after two confusing years under the Ryan brothers. Tyrod Taylor just kept plugging along behind center.
Now, after their 5-2 start, and just two weeks after picking up veteran Deonte Thompson to pick up the slack of disappointing rookie Zay Jones, Buffalo’s management rewarded Taylor with a big, sure-handed target and a bona fide WR-1 in Kelvin Benjamin.
How’s that going to look?
Benjamin’s presence in Buffalo does not signal the beginning of a new passing era in New York State. In fact, when asked how much Benjamin will help the offense, head coach Sean McDermott immediately noted what a tremendous boost he will be to the running game. Jordan Matthews is an excellent possession receiver. Andre Holmes has good hands and Deonte Thompson can stretch the field a bit, but Benjamin is the piece that will force defenses to back away from the box. That extra half-yard puts one more juke into LeSean McCoy’s forays down the field and will lead to some longer runs.
In the passing game, Benjamin is the big-bodied, big-handed receiver Andre Holmes was trying to be. Charles Clay was a top end zone target for a reason. Kelvin Benjamin now offers an obvious alternative. With Holmes, Clay, and Benjamin spread across the end zone, defenses won’t be able to cheat toward one side or the other. That could open the offense to running more in the red zone. Taylor’s scrambling ability fits nicely in that scenario.
Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison should feed the ball to Benjamin and Matthews enough to keep the defenses honest against the run and make play-action that much more effective. If the Bills want to control the ball more, they have the receivers they need to move deliberately and let McCoy take a few plays off.
So, about Taylor…
Tyrod Taylor had a slow start to 2017. After seven games, he is barely a top ten NFL fantasy quarterback, averaging 15 points per game. As similar as the statistics have proven to be, Taylor and the Bills were learning a new offense. Three of the seven games were against teams with a top-ten D/ST against quarterbacks. Eight of the Bills’ remaining nine games are against teams giving up the ten most fantasy quarterback totals.
Injuries to Clay and Matthews, coupled with uneven play by Holmes and rookie Zay Jones hurt the Bills’ offense early in the year. Veteran tight end Nick O’Leary has settled into Clay’s role and Matthews returned to the lineup in Week 8. Deonte Thompson has picked the offense up quickly and the addition of Benjamin should settle everyone into well-defined roles.
Taylor not only has good targets, he has targets he can hit quickly. Last year’s offense involved complicated routes that forced Taylor to buy time. Better offensive line play and continued excellence by McCoy will only help Taylor grow into the Buffalo attack.
Taylor is an experienced quarterback with a history of fantasy-relevant numbers, a favorable schedule, and an improving cast of players around him. His best football of 2017 is still to be seen. Barring unpredictable issues in Buffalo, Taylor is absolutely a must-start every week for the rest of the season—especially in Week 9 against the Jets. Taylor has scored over 20 NFL fantasy points in his last three games against his rivals from the city.
Start him with confidence in Week 9 and all year.
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