ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Tyrod Taylor's progress as a starting NFL quarterback continues to labor along because he struggles to read the whole field, make quick decisions, and deliver the ball in rhythm and with accuracy.
But one overlooked facet of Taylor's game is his ability to protect the ball, and that's the main reason why the Bills have set an NFL record for fewest turnovers (six) through the first 11 games of the season.
Taylor has thrown only four interceptions and the Bills have lost two fumbles, this coming one year after Taylor's inaugural season as a starter saw him throw only six interceptions in the 14 games he played.
Of course, Taylor's critics point out that one of the reasons for his low interception total is the fact that he doesn't often take chances throwing downfield, and he also gives up on plays too quickly and scrambles out of the pocket and runs.
While that's true, coach Rex Ryan is more than happy with his quarterback's willingness to play it safe rather than throw passes up for grabs.
"Everybody in the league is trying to protect the football and take it away on defense, but I think our quarterback in particular is vastly underrated in that area," Ryan said.
"He's protecting this football team, he's not being careless with the football. It's not just a game manager. I get it, our numbers aren't very good yardage-wise or whatever, but I think the main thing is your pass efficiency. I think that's a little higher rated than the yards would be."
The Bills lead the NFL in rushing, which they did in 2015. But they are dead last in passing at 182.5 yards per game. Taylor has topped 200 yards passing in only four games, and he has never thrown for 300 yards in any of his 25 career NFL starts.
Does this bother him? Not in the least.
"Of course you want the numbers, you want to come out with 300-yard games, but I've said from day one, whatever it takes to win games," said Taylor, who is 14-11 as an NFL starter. "We're last in passing right now. Can we better? Yes, but we're also in the playoff picture and ultimately that's what it takes moving forward.
"Whatever that formula takes week to week, it's going to be different. Some games we're going to have the opportunity to run the football and some weeks it's going to be more of a passing game."
Taylor does not believe he's afraid to take risks with the ball. An example came last week against Jacksonville when he threw a 16-yard touchdown pass into a tight window to wide receiver Justin Hunter.
Two Jaguars were in area, but Taylor threw a laser that Hunter caught for the winning score.
"In this league you have to take risks, but at the same time, you win the turnover battle week to week and you have a good chance of winning," Taylor said.
"It's my job to take calculated risks, but at the same time be smart with where I'm going with the football. Turnovers definitely don't lead to good things in this league."
The only two fumbles the Bills have lost this year came in a 45-16 rout of San Francisco. And Taylor's four interceptions came in four different games, and the Bills won two of those against Arizona and Cincinnati.
Buffalo has played six turnover-free games this year.
Playing that way Sunday in Oakland will be imperative. The Raiders have a dynamic offense that doesn't need help in regard to field position off of turnovers, so the Bills need to be efficient as well as explosive, a difficult tandem to execute.
"They have a talented defense, so you could say they're near the bottom as far as passing defense, but we have to be disciplined in our approach and take advantage of the opportunities we get down the field," Taylor said.
SERIES HISTORY: 38th regular-season meeting. Raiders lead, 20-17. Granted, the Raiders weren't in Oakland for two decades, but the Bills have not won a game in Oakland since 1966. Since then, they have lost eight times at the Coliseum including a 26-24 defeats in 2014 that ended the Bills' playoff chances.
--It would appear that offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson's career could be in jeopardy in the wake of his second substance abuse suspension this season, this one for 10 games. Henderson was informed by the NFL Tuesday that he was once again being suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy, and the issue is Henderson's continued use of marijuana which is reportedly using to manage pain caused by Crohn's disease, which he suffers from.
Contacted by the Associated Press, Henderson's agent, Brian Fettner, called the league's decision "heartbreaking" and added: "His situation is unique, but the drug policy doesn't line up with the uniqueness. It's disappointing. The reality is, the NFL's position has been if you need medical marijuana then you're too sick to play, but that's just not the case for Seantrel Henderson."
Henderson underwent two offseason surgeries after being diagnosed in December with the illness. In the first operation, doctors removed two feet of diseased intestines, and wore an ileostomy bag for nearly four months. The second procedure reattached his intestines, and so began the process of gaining weight and getting back into shape in order to compete for a roster spot. Henderson made his season debut in the game at Cincinnati on Nov. 20 and played well sharing time at right tackle with Jordan Mills, but he was inactive last week against Jacksonville.
It seems like the NFL isn't going to change its stance on marijuana any time soon, so Henderson might have to choose between his health and his football career. "They'll give you painkillers by the bottle, which are far, far worse than cannabis," Fettner said. "For some reason, the NFL isn't there yet. The reality of it is, it's a question of personal wealth and pain management."
--The Bills made a few roster moves as they placed defensive tackle Corbin Bryant (shoulder) and receiver Walt Powell (ankle) on the season-ending injured reserve list. Bryant had missed the last three games because of his injury, while Powell went down in the second quarter of Sunday's victory over Jacksonville.
Their spots on the roster were taken by defensive tackle Deandre Coleman and receiver Dezmin Lewis, both elevated from the practice squad.
With Seantrel Henderson's suspension, another roster spot was available and they filled it by signing tight end Logan Thomas off of the Lions' practice squad.
By rule, the Bills have to keep Thomas on their roster for at least the next three weeks, although it seems unlikely that he'll be activated any time soon. Thomas came into the league as a quarterback, drafted out of Virginia Tech in the fourth round in 2014 by the Cardinals, and he later spent time on the practice squads of the Giants and Dolphins, but he was never going to make it as a quarterback in the NFL.
The Lions planned to convert him to tight end, a move Thomas was on board with, and the Bills wasted almost no time signing him away as their depth at tight end is weak behind starter Charles Clay.
When he was signed, Thomas told Detroit reporters about his position switch, "It's just a day-by-day step. It's just getting the basics. I'm in kindergarten when these guys are in a pro level, so I'm going to have to kind of be like Billy Madison and go through it as fast as I can."
NOTES: DT Marcell Dareus did not practice Wednesday and his status is unknown for the Oakland game because of yet another injury, this time an abdominal strain sustained last week against Jacksonville. ... WR Sammy Watkins cut short his practice time Wednesday because he felt some soreness in his bothersome foot. ... WR Robert Woods (knee) did not practice and he probably won't be ready to play in Oakland. ... CB Ronald Darby (knee) entered the NFL's concussion protocol after getting hurt in the first quarter last week and his status for the Oakland game is uncertain. ... WR Percy Harvin remained absent from practice Wednesday after missing last week's game while suffering from migraines. ... DT Corbin Bryant was placed on the season-ending injured reserve list because of a shoulder injury that had forced him to miss the previous three games. ... T Seantrel Henderson has been suspended for the second time this year, this time for 10 games, for violating the league's substance abuse policy. ... RB Mike Gillislee (hamstring) missed the Jacksonville game but he was back at practice on Wednesday and is expected to play. ... TE Logan Thomas was signed off the Detroit Lions practice squad and practiced with the Bills for the first time Wednesday, although he will not play at Oakland. ... LB Lorenzo Alexander has only one sack in his last four games after recording at least one in the first seven games. ... LB Brandon Spikes has been inactive the last two games, although he is not injured.