Slow starts, inability to throw downfield led Bills to make QB change

The Bills, despite being above .500 and in a playoff position, made the bold decision last week to bench starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor in place of 2017 fifth-round pick Nathan Peterman, a move sources said team management had been considering for weeks and one born of several factors.

The Bills brass believed the offense was not going to evolve with Taylor due to some of his limitations reading the field and making plays within the confines of the pocket, his unwillingness to throw into tight windows or throw receivers open, and a tendency to start halves slowly, sources said. There was a sense that Taylor, and the passing game, had plateaued at a level that won't be enough to beat good defenses or win in January, and the expectation is that Peterman will be more willing to drive the ball downfield and take some chances (with the understanding that could lead to more turnovers).

The Bills coaching staff and front office thinks very highly of Taylor and love his attitude and work ethic, sources said, but felt the need to make a change now after repeatedly struggling to move the ball early in games and halves. Buffalo has an NFL-worst nine first-quarter points all season (through nine games) and has also scored just once this season on a drive coming out of halftime. When the offense has flashed, its often been on a short-field, after a turnover, and with the defense no longer on an NFL-leading takeaway pace confidence in the ability to drive the length of the field has waned.

One of Taylor's greatest strengths is the ability to make something happen outside of the pocket when things break down, but operating within the pocket was a concern. The team will have to curtail some of its run-pass-option plays, with Peterman not the same caliber of athlete that Taylor is, though it won't abandon those looks entirely. While the Bills know there is a risk in going to a rookie with the season on the line, they like what they saw out of Peterman in the summer and can go back to a more traditional offense now, having catered a lot of the packages to Taylor's strengths once their new regime opted to bring him back on a restructured contract.

Ultimately, the sense was that Taylor is not the franchise quarterback of the future -- though obviously an injury to Peterman would thrust him back on the field with the potential to alter some perceptions of him down the stretch -- and this was the only viable time to give Peterman a solid period of time to show what he can do before Buffalo goes into an offseason in which it is loaded with picks in the first three rounds and heavily scouring the college quarterbacks. GM Brandon Beane was among a bevvy of evaluators at the UCLA/USC game on Saturday, which features two potential top-10 picks at quarterback.

CBS Sports Insider

Before joining CBS Sports, Jason La Canfora was the Washington Redskins beat writer for The Washington Post for six years and served as NFL Network's insider. The Baltimore native can be seen every Sunday... Full Bio

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