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Dennison effectively Taylor-ing the offense


Yes, they spent a year together as quarterbacks coach and quarterback in Baltimore in 2014. Yes, they spent the entire offseason working on installing the offensive system in Buffalo. But for offensive coordinator Rick Dennison to effectively tailor the offense to Tyrod Taylor and the weapons he had at his disposal, which were changing right up until a week before the season opener, he needed a little time to see those pieces work together. Dennison's Week 3 game plan served as a sign that the offense should only improve going forward.

Dennison had a good idea as to how to deploy Taylor having worked with the quarterback before in Baltimore. But even then he wasn't designing game plans and play calls for Taylor. He was doing that for Joe Flacco.

Buffalo's first two weeks on offense were a bit of a mixed bag. What has helped to accelerate the often-mentioned process of head coach Sean McDermott has been the constant communication between Dennison and Taylor.

"Rico always has an open ear even from my time working with him in Baltimore," said Taylor. "But this past week talking with him about what I saw and liked, or things that I felt we were good at against this defense. Even things that he liked from his time in Denver and knowing that group that we just played. Ideas that he thought would work.

"We were on the same page and ultimately, we were able to go out there and execute. It wasn't pretty every drive. We had some drives we could've been better at, but we were able to get the job done."

Dennison put together a plan that earned the praise of head coach Sean McDermott, as he cleverly took advantage of Taylor's strengths in making plays on the move, and kept the opposing defense honest using some of his offense's own identity to his advantage.

Last week on 2nd-and-goal from the two-yard line in the second quarter, he put two fullbacks and three tight ends on the field. Everyone in the building was expecting run. Instead he had Mike Tolbert leak out of the backfield and he was wide open for a touchdown catch. Unfortunately, Tolbert couldn't hang onto the ball.

He lined up a three tight-end look on a 1st-and-10 from the Bills 31 in the third quarter down a field goal. Every possible pre-snap deduction would say the Bills were going to run. Buffalo reinforced that thought by running play action, only to roll Taylor out to his left and have Nick O'Leary run a deep out route on the back side for a 31-yard pass play.

Buffalo's offensive coordinator also found ways to incorporate some of the newer additions to the roster in the passing game with Jordan Matthews and Kaelin Clay turning in big plays in the win over Denver.

"The first (third down) conversion we had, we had a crossing route with Jordan (Matthews)," Dennison said. "(Taylor) did a great job in the pocket. It was a crowded pocket. (He) did a nice job, nice and calm, gave him a good ball and an explosive play."

Playing against one's own tendencies can catch an opponent off guard, and Dennison has a world of experience in that area. Of course, Buffalo's attack can't stray too far from what makes it successful on a consistent basis. And Taylor believes that being productive on the ground will happen again soon.

"Each week is going to call for different things, but we have to stay true to our identity," said Taylor. "We showed we can be more than multiple in our passing attack. Whether it's using keepers to keep a defense honest on the back side. It's ultimately going to help Shady, even though we weren't able to get the running game going like we wanted to (Sunday). But it's going to help him with the ends slow playing it back side."

But where this offense goes from here will largely hinge on the developing relationship between Dennison and Taylor.

"It's been great through three games," Dennison said. "In each of the games, he's come up with suggestions that we've used. I ask him as it's going and he's done a great job with that. His knowledge of the game has been great, and I've always expected that.

"We do a lot of talk during the week, this is what I'm seeing, that's why I'm calling this, this is what I'm seeing, and that's why we have this design. He's done a good job with that, and it'll continue."

"You want to do what that person is comfortable doing and I think Rico has a good idea about what I do well and what I'm comfortable with," said Taylor.

The next step is the check game and Taylor's ability to audible. He can do some of that now, but Dennison wanted the offense to take some shape before expanding that responsibility for his quarterback.

"We're getting to that," Taylor said. "That's something, like I said, as you progress in the offense, as I progress in my relationship with (Rick Dennison), the comfort level in him allowing me to do that (increases). In certain packages, we definitely have plays where I can audible, but that's not a free-range thing every play."

For now the focus is keeping the opposing defense off balance, and as the working relationship between Dennison and Taylor becomes more seamless so too will the execution of Buffalo's attack.

"It's just making sure we get a little bit of everything going," said Dennison. "We're trying to keep them guessing and keep us comfortable all at the same time, just knowing what we have. Each situation is a little bit different.

"You have to be able to run it and throw it in this league. You can't do one or the other because there are good defenses, good personnel. To our guys' credit, they'll keep working at it. I'm hoping we'll keep developing, keep getting better and keep improving."

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