How are the Ravens planning for E.J. Manuel?
Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor hasn't played a snap yet this regular season, and it's possible he won't see the field this Sunday in Buffalo, either. But he already has been one of the Ravens' most valuable players this week.
Taylor has spent the week simulating Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel, and Taylor's speed and athleticism should help give the Ravens defense a better idea of what they might face from the Bills' rookie quarterback and their read-option offense.
"It’s very hard to emulate guys with that kind of athleticism if you don’t have a guy that can do it," Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said on Thursday. "Tyrod is exceptional and does a tremendous job. He gives our defense a picture and certainly does prepare them for a guy like we’re facing this week, who is also extremely mobile, a very capable passer and smart. It’s a great luxury.”
The Ravens faced read-option offenses last year, most notably against the Redskins and 49ers, and to prepare at that time, they turned to practice squad quarterback Dennis Dixon, who had run a similar offense at the University of Oregon. Dixon is no longer with the team, but Taylor provides many of the same strengths and will give the defense a good idea of what is coming from Manuel.
This will be the first time the Ravens have seen the read-option this season, but at his weekly news conference on Thursday, defensive coordinator Dean Pees said the team practiced "quite a bit against it" throughout the summer.
"I think it was every other day in OTAs and about every other day or so in training camp, we actually had a period called ‘read-option period’ [or] ‘read-zone period,’ ” he said.
The best way to prepare for the read option is to simulate in practice the abilities of the quarterback who will be running it. That's where Taylor's athleticism, speed and running ability come in handy.
"He can definitely give us – and he’s been giving us – a look that we’ll see Sunday," linebacker Daryl Smith said. "A lot of times in practice, it is hard to simulate some of these plays or some of the situations we may face on Sunday, but this week, having a guy like that has been huge.”