This past Sunday, the Ravens’ starters took a rest and fans got a chance to see what the second string could do. One player that I paid particular attention to was backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
During the Ravens’ three-game losing streak, Joe Flacco’s play was absolutely terrible and there was a large outcry from fans to see what Taylor could do. Flacco was able to calm some fans with his 300-yard performance against the Giants and proved that he deserved to be the starter, but there still was some doubt looming.
I’ve read some mixed reviews of Taylor’s performance on Sunday, but I was thoroughly impressed. His mobility and versatility adds a new element to the offense and changes the style completely, but not in a bad way. Taylor benefited greatly from the strong rushing performance from Bernard Pierce and Anthony Allen, and drew some attention from the defense with his dual threat ability in the option.
The Ravens had a total of 206 yards rushing on the day and the majority of it can be credited to Taylor. He rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown, averaging 7.2 yards per carry and was very efficient in the option game. I rewatched every single option play and Taylor was almost perfect in all his reads, making only a few misreads on plays which were pretty cloudy due to the excellent Cincinnati defense.
In the passing game, Taylor’s play could be best described as efficient. He threw for 149 on 25 attempts against an extremely impressive defense that played its starters for the majority of the game. The majority of Taylor’s throws were spot on and he made very little errors. He did have one interception which was returned for a touchdown and ended up being the winning score for the Bengals. However, I would hardly call it Taylor’s fault as it was more of an outstanding play by Carlos Dunlap, who tipped the ball to himself at the line of scrimmage. Taylor made the right read on the play, but did stare down his receiver, giving Dunlap the opportunity to read the play. He also had a few passes dropped and was almost picked off when Bernard Pierce failed to turn and look for the ball on a swing pass out of the backfield. Overall, he didn’t get a lot of help from his receivers, who ran some lazy routes at times and were covered well by the Cincinnati secondary. Additionally, the play calling was fairly conservative with most of the routes being run under 10 yards so we only got to see the deep ball from Taylor a handful of times.
I would have liked to see the Ravens run more play action and roll outs as it seemed to work well for Tyrod as he always has the option to tuck the ball and run with it. That ability is where most of the criticism stems from for mobile quarterbacks like Taylor. The most common tendency with mobile QBs is to run out of the pocket and switch your mind to a ball carrier after your first read is covered, taking your eyes off the receivers downfield. While Tyrod often showed his escapability and mobility on Sunday, the most important thing I noticed is that he stayed with his progression and kept his eyes downfield. He made some beautiful passes on the run and some even better decisions, throwing the ball away when needing to. His escapability in the pocket is what kept many plays alive as the Bengals ferocious pass rush was going off all day. Whether it was the Ravens’ poor offensive line or the Bengals’ adept pass rushers, Taylor was under a fair share of pressure all afternoon and had to make some plays out of nothing. Although he was sacked four times on the day, I can guarantee you that it would have been a lot more if Joe Flacco, who has possibly the worse pocket awareness in the NFL, was in his same position.
Joe Flacco and Tyrod Taylor are completely different players and are practically incomparable. Currently, under no circumstance would I ever suggest Flacco to be benched in favor of Taylor, but I do now feel much more comfortable with Taylor if Flacco were ever to get hurt. Taylor is still only a second year player and has much to learn but I do love the new dynamic he adds to the Ravens offense and I wouldn’t be completely opposed to seeing him implemented into some special packages. There’s no denying that Taylor is an explosive player and he’s not helping the team by sitting on the bench. While I don’t expect, nor want, to see him during this year’s playoff run, I would love to see him get some more playing time next season. If Sunday was just a glimpse of what Tyrod Taylor can become, I’m looking forward to watching him in the future.