Bills Tuesday Takes on Fred Jackson & Taylor

Thoughts on the Fred Jackson and Tyrod Taylor news from yesterday.

Have you caught your breath yet, Bills fans?  Wow, what a day yesterday truly was.  Two major moves came down within hours of each other.  The first sent a wave of emotions across the minds and hearts of many fans, while the next brought them back to reality and a sense of happiness and optimism.  There hasn’t been a day quite like yesterday since Rex Ryan was hired.  On the radio, television and, especially social media, everyone was talking about the Bills and Buffalo was truly the center of the NFL universe, if only for a few hours.

Yesterday started off as normal as any other day.  I usually wake up around 7:00 every morning, and will begin checking in on Twitter and some of my go-to websites for sports news right away.  And then I will check back in every ten minutes or so (okay, probably even more frequently) throughout the day.  The morning started off pretty slow, nothing really new going on at all as far as the Bills were concerned.  People were wondering if the quarterback news would be leaked sometime soon, but nothing seemed imminent.

Of course, just a couple hours later, that all changed.  I hopped back on Twitter and immediately saw some “Oh my God!”, “No”, “I can’t believe this!” type tweets from some Bills backers.  Initially, I thought that the Bills must’ve named E.J. Manuel or Matt Cassel as the starting quarterback instead of Tyrod Taylor, and almost went into cardiac arrest.  Then, I saw that these were reactions to the Bills releasing Fred Jackson.

Did I see the release of Freddy coming?  No, no not really.  I hadn’t really thought about it all that much, to be honest.  He was hurt for a good chunk of training camp, the new coaching staff was in town and the quarterback competition was dominating headlines.  He kind of got lost in the shuffle.  So yeah, in that regard, it was a bit shocking to me.  However, once you really dig into it, from a football standpoint, it shouldn’t be that shocking to anyone.

I was upset that Freddy Jackson had played his last down in red, white and blue.  So many people were.  However, some people were upset for the wrong reasons.  If you were upset because of how many solid years he contributed to the Bills on the field, the kind of effort he gave each and every time he stepped onto it, his philanthropic commitment to the Western New York community, etc., then you were upset for the right reasons.  If you were upset because you thought that this was a bad football move by the Buffalo Bills, then I think you’re wrong.

Jackson is a 34 year old running back whose game is declining and, even more glaringly, is having an incredibly hard time staying healthy at this stage of his career. His YPC dropped to a career-low 3.7 last season, and he has only been able to dress for all 16 games once since 2011.  Another injury cost him three weeks of training camp this year.  He’s very good in the passing game, particularly in pass blocking, but he brings very little juice in the running game at this point in his career and is having an awfully difficult time staying healthy for any type of extended period of time.  But, that’s okay, he’s 34 years old.  It’s to be expected and, in this day and age, it’s incredible that he is still even giving it a go at all.  It just doesn’t happen.  But, that’s Fred Jackson for you.

The depth at the running back position also came into play for the Bills.  As did the $2.4 million they will save by releasing Fred.  The team absolutely cannot afford to have LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams losing any touches at all.  They will be the top two backs, and deservingly so.  After them, you have Bryce Brown, who is a better pure runner than Jackson at this point, and is still a full decade younger and Boobie Dixon, who is a core special teams player and can also pick up some carries if a slew of injuries dictate it necessary.  Those are, and should be, the four running backs that the Bills keep heading into the regular season.

The fact that Fred Jackson will not be a Buffalo Bill for the first time in his career stinks.  It really does.  But it stinks because of all that he has meant to this team and community over the years, not for any football reasons heading into the 2015 season.  And, you know what, the Bills coaching staff and management needs to be focused on the best interests of the football team and nothing else.  It’s really that simple.  Releasing Fred Jackson was a tough move, no doubt, but it was the right move.

Now, let’s get to the topic that almost everyone seems to be finally in agreement on.  Shortly after the Fred Jackson news broke, the news buck was passed to something that generated even more buzz:  Tyrod Taylor was named the starting quarterback for Week 1 vs Indianapolis.  And what glorious news it was.

One of the first things that Rex Ryan declared when talking about the 2015 off-season was that there was going to be an open competition at the most important position in sports.  That always seemed like a scary, yet strangely exciting proposition.  It started getting exciting for me when the Bills signed Tyrod Taylor after four seasons backing up Joe Flacco in Baltimore.  See, I definitely knew what the Bills had in Matt Cassel.  That had become obvious over the years.  And I was pretty confident I knew what the Bills had in EJ Manuel.  Tyrod Taylor?  I had no clue.  Other than the fact he was an incredible athlete whose college game I really liked and that, unanimously, people who worked with him in Baltimore loved the guy.

Fast forward to 2015 training camp at St. John Fisher College:  Cassel, predictably began camp with the lion’s share of 1st string reps, while Manuel and Taylor were mixed in periodically.  However, almost from day one of camp, whispers about Tyrod Taylor playing well started to come, and as they did, more and more reps did as well.  And it translated to the pre-season games.  We knew Taylor was an A+ athlete, probably the fastest quarterback in the entire league.  What we weren’t sure about was whether or not he would be able to make good decisions and accurate throws from the pocket with any type of consistency.

Well, particularly against the Browns and Steelers, he proved to be far more advanced in his pocket passing than pretty much anyone could’ve predicted.  Oh, and he is still really, really fast.  Dynamic is the word that Rex Ryan used to describe him yesterday and it’s the correct word.  Taylor has proven that he can efficiently run a difficult offense, can make quick reads and accurate throws from the pocket and brings another element to the Bills offense with his running ability, both by design and when a play breaks down.  Will it all translate to the regular season?  No one knows for sure, but the coaching staff has seen enough to believe it will, and I believe it as well.

Cassel and, particularly, Manuel were both good during the pre-season games and, at times, during training camp.  You heard a lot of mixed reviews on Manuel throughout camp, as we’ve come to expect throughout his young career, but the kid stepped up during the pre-season games and proved that he was game to battle the other two guys.  And that was great to see.  It showed a lot of heart and determination, and he also made some nice throws during those games.  Whether he has actually become a significantly better quarterback, as he needed to, is a debate for a different day, but EJ didn’t lose the job with his play in the pre-season, Tyrod Taylor won it with his and with his practice reps at SJFC.  You just can’t help but be excited about it.

The Buffalo Bills made two big decisions as a franchise yesterday, and I believe that they made the right call in both instances.  It is very encouraging to me that they seem united on both decisions, top-to-bottom, in the organization, and that they’re confident in making both of them.  I wish Fred Jackson the best with (what looks like) his new team in Seattle and I absolutely cannot wait to see how Tyrod Taylor plays in twelve (!) days when it counts.  I have a feeling it’s going to be a fun ride.

Buffalo Football Report Top Stories