Tyler Boyd played his college career at the University of Pittsburgh before being drafted in the second round by the Bengals in the 2016 NFL Draft. This week, he is preparing to face off against the Houston Texans and quarterback Tom Savage, who was Pitt’s quarterback in Boyd’s freshman year and one of Boyd’s first mentors at the college level.
"He was all over the place but since he was so old he was so experienced and he had knowledge for the game. I'm young and trying to learn," Boyd told Katherine Terrell of ESPN. "Just having him there helped me a lot to try to get through things and beat schemes and defeat the defense being thrown at him. Just having a veteran guy made it easier for me to jump in and go."
At the NFL level, Savage and Boyd have had very different experiences. Boyd is still in his rookie year, but he has recorded 50 catches for 539 yards and a touchdown in the process. Save for the significant difference in touchdowns, those numbers are comparable to the departed Marvin Jones, who finished last year with 65 catches for 816 yards and four touchdowns. The biggest difference? Jones started 13 games in 2015 and Boyd has only started one this year.
Savage spent his rookie year in 2014 as the third string quarterback for the Texans behind Case Keenum and Thad Lewis. He did play in two games, but only recorded 127 yards and an interception. He spent all of 2015 on Injured Reserve due to a devastating shoulder injury suffered in the preseason. This year, he has only played in one game, which was just last week, and he recorded an impressive 36 passes for 23 completions and 260 yards.
Those numbers aren’t great, but they’re notably better than former Texans’ starter Brock Osweiler, who recorded 11 passes for 6 catches, 48 yards, and two interceptions before being benched for Savage in Week 15 against the Jaguars. Savage will finally be getting his chance to take over as the Texans’ quarterback, although he had to wait significantly longer than Boyd to make an impact with his NFL team. However, despite taking three years to emerge, the fact that he finally got going doesn’t surprise Boyd, who remembers how well he worked with Savage in college.
"We worked real well together. Our chemistry was clicking ever since I got there," Boyd said. "He trusted me, and I trusted him. He's just a guy that knows the game, studies it a lot and goes out there and plays."
In 2013, Boyd had 85 receptions, 1,174 yards and 7 touchdowns. So when Boyd says he worked well with Savage, he’s not joking. Savage threw for 2,958 yards, 21 touchdowns and 9 interceptions that season.
In fact, Savage was part of the reason Boyd decided to go to Pitt in the first place.
"When I was getting recruited and knowing if I was to go to Pitt and he was going to be the quarterback, I felt he was probably the most mature and most NFL ready based off what I had seen," Boyd said. "I had an idea that he would have that opportunity. ... He would have to get a couple years under his belt and see from there. But I knew he would have an opportunity."
When the former teammates face off this week, their focus will be on doing everything they can to hand the other a loss. But, leading up to the game, Boyd expressed nothing but admiration for his first quarterback at Pitt.
"He was the first quarterback I had at Pitt. He was a real great player. He got me up in the rankings, got my yards up. He was very accurate, a strong-armed guy," Boyd said. "So I already know what we've got on hand."
It sounds like Boyd could come in handy when preparing for the relatively unknown Savage this weekend.