As the Bills get ready for training camp, we are previewing the 2020 team by position group. One group every day until camp begins in full July 28th. Today is the linebackers.
Matt Milano is one of the better cover linebackers in the NFL. Tremaine Edmunds is a pain in the passing game simply because he’s 6-5, but he can cover pretty well, too. In a passing league, it’s a huge plus that your two best linebackers are guys who never need come off the field on passing downs.
Beyond that, there are questions as we’ll explore in a minute. A.J. Klein is not known for his coverage skills and could get picked on if teams can isolate him in a man to man situation. However, Klein is likely to only be a run down linebacker.
He still isn’t terrible in coverage. Sean McDermott coached Klein in Carolina and should know how to put him in good spots.
After the top three, the rest of the Bills roster doesn’t have even 300 snaps experience at linebacker. Keep in mind, 300 snaps is about four games.
Tyler Matakevich is a four year NFL vet. He at least has league experience, albeit primarily as a special teamer. Corey Thompson would be likely the next linebacker up. Leslie Frazier has said lots of nice things, but they’re only words to this point.
Vosean Joseph and Tyrel Dodson are total mysteries. If Edmunds or Milano goes down for an extended period, this position becomes a question mark in a hurry.
Milano and Edmunds have been very good together the last two years. Edmunds, deservedly, was the first man in as an injury replacement for the Pro Bowl in 2019.
What they don’t do much is make the game changing play. Last year, Edmunds and Milano had six sacks, fumble recoveries, forced fumbles and interceptions combined. They were on the high end of blitz attempts last year and on the low end of success rate.
They don’t need big plays to be effective. All-pro first teamers like Demario Davis and Bobby Wagner don’t put up huge totals in these categories. It feels like both Bills, and especially Edmunds, have another gear yet to be engaged. It’s the kinda thing that could elevate this duo the same way six interceptions did for Tre White last year.
THINGS WERE SAID
The Bills have made every effort to red carpet Edmunds a path to a leadership role appropriate for a middle linebacker, often the quarterback of the defense.
At just age 22, Edmunds walked that path with eye opening ease.
“He’s the epitome of what you would want one of your star players to be,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. “A guy you don’t have to worry about late at night. You know he’s going to be where he’s supposed to be. You know he’s going to do what he’s supposed to do when it comes to football. We’re just very very fortunate to have him as a star player for the Buffalo Bills.”