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Tyrod Taylor is Buffalo Bills’ Wild Card

Tyrod Taylor picked Buffalo for a reason.

Football coaches are fond of cliches and one I’ve heard on more than a few occasions over the years is: “success breeds when preparation and opportunity meet.”

As Joe Flacco’s caddy in Baltimore, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Taylor could kill the preparation aspect of that equation, but the moment to prove it was likely never coming. After all, the monstrous 6-foot-6, Flacco has been embracing a Cal Ripken-like approach to his job in Baltimore, starting 112 consecutive regular-season games for the Ravens since being drafted in the first round out of the University of Delaware in 2008.

And the thought of Flacco being benched for ineffectiveness is laughable because the South Jersey native has piloted John Harbaugh’s club to a gaudy 72-40 record over that span and has a Super Bowl championship on his resume.

“He was definitely a guy who could’ve been a starter,” Ravens safety Terrence Brooks told The Buffalo News when talking about Taylor. “But he was behind Joe Flacco, a really good guy, too. If we ever needed Tyrod, I was pretty sure he could step up to the job and do it.”

To prove that, Taylor, a former sixth-round pick out of Virginia Tech, was going to have to step out of his comfort zone in the Charm City and take his chances elsewhere.

And he did exactly that, inking a modest three-year, $3.35 million deal with the Bills back in March, armed with the knowledge a better opportunity awaited.

How much better could be debated, though, because Buffalo’s plan seemed obvious from the get go.

Like many teams who needed a QB this offseason, the Bills recognized this was probably not the year to get it done. The free-agent market was headlined by names like Mark Sanchez and Jake Locker, while the draft had only two signal callers with first-round grades (Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota).

Rex Ryan, the new head coach in Buffalo, saw that landscape and decided to lay up and play for par, acquiring a dynamic high-priced running back (LeSean McCoy) to build his offensive around before snagging veteran QB Matt Cassel from the Minnesota Vikings.

The 33-year-old Cassel was expected to be the placeholder for Teddy Bridgewater with the Vikings last season and things were going as planned before a foot injury put him on the shelf in Week 4. Bridgewater in turn played so well as a rookie Minnesota felt comfortable moving forward without its security blanket in exchange for a couple of future assets.

Ryan’s idea for Cassel was to take on a similar role in Western New York with the hopes he could mentor and help develop a young player with upside in E.J. Manuel.

Manuel, the Bills’ first-round pick in 2013, was benched by ex-coach Doug Marrone in favor of the now retired Kyle Orton last season. He’ll be getting a clean slate with Ryan but it’s pretty clear the new regime isn’t sold on the former Florida State standout just yet.

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Cassel, however, did not impress at all in offseason work and Manuel appears to have reemerged as the leader in the clubhouse as training camp approaches. Which leads us to the wild card in the scenario, Taylor, a player who has attempted just 35 passes in his four NFL seasons as Flacco’s backup.

Taylor doesn’t have Manuel’s pedigree or Cassel’s experience but he does offer an interesting dual-threat, skill set, something offensive coordinator Greg Roman is used to working with after tutoring Colin Kaepernick over recent seasons in San Francisco.

Once upon a time Taylor ran for over 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns with the Hokies and his 40 time at the scouting combine was a tick better than Kaepernick’s.

“When things are broken down he can move around with his feet and make things happen,” Brooks said. “And even if he can’t get anybody open, he’s still going to make a play with his feet. So he’s a guy you really have to watch out for and I’m pretty sure they’ll be happy to have him.”

Those in Buffalo believe Ryan is intrigued by Taylor’s athleticism and the coach did push to acquire him when he was the New York Jets’ mentor, so there is at least a little smoke to the fire of the coach taking a liking to the perceived third-stringer.

“It’s probably not an ideal situation right now,” Ryan admitted earlier this offseason when discussing his QB quandary. “You’ve got guys competing instead of just going in with a clear cut number one, but nobody has established themselves yet.”

That lack of separation during offseason work means when the Bills report to St. John Fisher College for camp on July 30, an open competition, or at least a perceived one, will commence.

“Each guy has their set of talents and things like that, but let’s see how they fit in this system,” Ryan said. “They’ll all get opportunities and the most important thing is that you’ve got the right guy under center when the season starts.”

Could that right guy be Taylor?

“No one will really know until they give him a shot,” Brooks claimed. “That’s what he’s been working for — for a while — just to get that shot, to show everybody what he can do. What I remember from playing against him in college and the ACC Championship Game is he tore it up. I’m pretty sure he could do the same still.”

You can reach JF McMullen at jmcmullen@phanaticmag.com or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also listen to John weekly on YAHOO! Sports Radio, YSR Indianapolis, ESPN Atlantic City, ESPN Lexington, Omaha’s The Zone and ESPN Southwest Florida.





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