1- McDermott: Tremaine Edmunds has made significant progress
Asking a 20-year-old to start at any position in the NFL is rather unusual.
Asking a 20-year-old to run an NFL defense is nearly unheard of.
That’s exactly what the Bills did with rookie linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, however, and thus far, he’s been up for the challenge.
Buffalo named Edmunds its starter at middle linebacker almost immediately after selecting him in the first round of the 2018 draft, handing the reins of the defense over to a 20-year-old with no experience at the position. Edmunds, however, has lived up to the sky-high expectations surrounding him, starting 13 games for the Bills at MIKE linebacker and seemingly improving each and every week.
Through 13 games, Edmunds has recorded a team-high 98 tackles. His consistently strong play has been complemented by an ever-growing level of confidence, according to head coach Sean McDermott.
“Significant [progress], it’s significant,” McDermott said. “Sometimes, maybe not in just numbers, but just in terms of his comfort level. There’s a lot when you play that middle linebacker position, it’s about getting us lined up and about making sure the other people are freed up to make plays if you’re fitting the run the right way. Then with the pass game. It’s significant the growth that he’s made to this point and I think the arrow continues to point up with more upside.
Edmunds’ teammates feel as though his progress has been evident.
“He’s done a great job of evolving over the season,” veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “There are still things that he’ll have to continue to work on in the offseason and want to make more plays, but he’s done a good job, I think, for never having been the signal caller, never having been a MIKE, just being more of an athlete, WILL, off the ball type of guy, he’s done a great job of making that transition.
“He’s going to continue to grow and be, in my opinion, the standard for a backer over the next several years.”
2 - Tre White ‘not surprised’ by Wallace’s success
Just a few weeks ago, only the most devoted of Bills fans knew Levi Wallace’s name.
The undrafted cornerback out of Alabama was stashed away on Buffalo’s practice squad. Though the rookie had shown signs of promise in the preseason, he wasn’t necessarily looked at as a blue-chip prospect.
In desperate need of a reliable player who could start opposite Tre’Davious White, Buffalo promoted Wallace to its active roster in Week 10. He got the start at cornerback that week and hasn’t looked back since, playing on at least 83 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in each of the past five games.
The rookie has recorded 22 tackles and two pass deflections in five starts.
Though Wallace’s efficiency has come as a surprise to some, White always knew that he had a special skillset.
“A lot [of growth],” White said. “This is a guy, I knew it from when we signed him in the offseason, the way he worked and paid attention to details on the practice squad, his success is not [surprising]. I’m not surprised about the way he’s playing, because he’s a guy that works extremely hard.”
A former LSU Tiger, White isn’t a fan of Wallace’s alma mater. He does, however, feel as though Wallace’s collegiate experience has helped him at the professional level.
“Alabama man, that’s a winning program, and those guys put out DBs a lot,” White said. “They have a lot of success in the NFL, and he’s one of them. You can tell that he comes from a winning pedigree, the way that he prepares himself and goes about his business.
“I always joke about that a lot, about the Alabama-LSU [rivalry], but he’s on my team now. I’m just rooting for him.”
3 - Allen leading the NFL in scrambles
Stopping a 6-foot-5, 240-pound quarterback who’s running at full speed has proven to be a near impossible task for NFL defenses over the past several weeks.
Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen has put his highly-touted athletic ability on display over the past four weeks, rushing for 351 yards and three touchdowns. No quarterback has rushed for more yards than Allen since he returned from an elbow injury in Week 12.
The rookie’s rushing success has come largely as a result of his own decision making, as offensive coordinator Brian Daboll hasn’t called many designed quarterback runs. Instead, Allen has picked up significant yardage off scrambles. According to Pro Football Focus, no quarterback looks to scramble more often than Allen.
Allen takes off on nearly 17 percent of his dropbacks, the highest percentage among quarterbacks with at least 13 scrambles. Though Allen tucks and runs more often than other passers, his efficiency when scrambling has been historic. Per PFF, the 22-year-old is picking up an average of 10.1 yards per scramble.
Statistically, Allen has a legitimate shot at moving the chains every time he takes off.
Allen’s strong frame has allowed him to find success on the ground, as he’s not going down on initial contact. According to PFF, the signal caller is picking up an average of 6.9 yards after contact, the highest YAC average among all quarterbacks.