The Bills success last season wouldn't have been possible without the defense. It's one reason why Buffalo was competitive in almost every game. The Bills finished last season with the third-best defense in the league allowing an average of 298.3 yards per game. Buffalo's solid defense also ranked second in points allowed per game with 16.2.
It's easy to name 15 players who helped make the defense strong. That's why it's tough to name only five defensive playmakers to watch for during training camp. From new players to veterans on the team, here's our take on five defensive players worth keeping an eye on at camp.
DE Mario Addison
There's plenty of reasons to follow new defensive end Mario Addison during camp. The defensive end will have plenty of opportunities with the Bills, and that will be on display come end of July. Addison will help fill a hole opposite Jerry Hughes left by Shaq Lawson's departure. The 10-year vet will be enticing to watch because he feels like he's at the top of his game. Don't let the age 32 fool you, the last four seasons have been Addison's most productive. The defensive end has racked up 39 sacks in the last four years along with eight forced fumbles and 136 total tackles. Expect another year of the same from Addison.
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier wants to put more pressure on the quarterback in 2020. Addison's sack production is one reason why the Bills will succeed in getting to the QB by only rushing four defensive players. Addison has familiarity in this defensive system. Addison played under head coach Sean McDermott when McDermott was his defensive coordinator from 2012 to 2016 in Carolina. It's a system he has played in for more than a few seasons, but how quickly can it become muscle memory again? From production to leadership, a lot will be expected out of Addison. Let's see how he'll grab hold of the opportunity once he gets to the practice field.
LB Tremaine Edmunds
Middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds made vast steps forward from his rookie season to last season. A better understanding of the defense, an increase in leadership skills and a team-high 115 total tackles — Edmunds improved in all areas of his game. As the quarterback of the defense, eyes will be on Edmunds to see how he will take his game to the next level in his third season.
Why watch Edmunds at camp? It's simple — he's one of the best players on defense, and one of the most talented middle linebackers in the league. He is only 22-years-old, but is being asked to help fill a leadership gap due to Lorenzo Alexander's retirement. In addition to leading the team in tackles, the linebacker recorded nine passes defended, one and a half sacks and an interception. With each season, Edmunds is held to a higher standard on and off the field. Being on the field for 95 percent of the defense's snaps last season — in a defense that favors two linebacker sets — the Bills will depend on Edmunds to stop the run and continue making plays dropping into pass coverage.
DT Ed Oliver
Young players are known to make a big jump from year one to year two. Defensive tackle Ed Oliver is capable of building on his success from last season. It wasn't until midseason that Oliver really started to show his full potential. The ninth overall pick from 2019 used his rookie year to get acclimated to the speed of the game and learn how to be a threat in Frazier's defense. Oliver is a player to watch at camp because of the growth he should show during his sophomore campaign.
One of Oliver's best games from last season was in Week 13 when he registered 2.0 sacks, one forced fumble and one pass defended against the Cowboys. The defensive tackle will be looked at as a key piece in pressuring the quarterback more in 2020. The defensive line totaled 44 sacks in 2019, which ranked 11th in the league. Oliver will be a large part of the defense this season as he improves his speed and technique.
S Jordan Poyer
Safety Jordan Poyer belongs to a safety tandem with Micah Hyde that is garnering more and more national attention each year. Poyer was one of the most talented players on the defense in 2019 and will be asked to contribute just as much this season. The safety ended 2019 with a career-high 103 tackles. He also ranks second in the NFL for most interceptions since 2017 with 11.
Keep an eye on Poyer at camp to see what he and Hyde pull out of their bag of tricks in 2020. Poyer enters his eighth season but doesn't look to be nearing a plateau or decline in his play. With every year Poyer strengthens the Bills secondary and adds to the talent of the defense as a whole. League-wide, the duo is talked about as being a very confusing pair to an opposing offense. In camp, look to see what new element Poyer adds to his game as he develops into one of the NFL's top safeties.
CB Tre'Davious White
Corner Tre'Davious White needs no explanation as to why you should pay attention to him at camp. His talent level and personality are two reasons why it's hard to look away once he hits the field. White is coming off of a season where he tied for most interceptions in the league taking the ball away six times. The corner gave any WR1 who lined up against him a tough time in doing their job successfully. Might I add, White has just played three years in the NFL. McDermott and Frazier believe there's a lot left in tank for one of the best corners in the league.
Unfortunately in the NFL the better you get on defense, the less you are targeted by the offense. This doesn't mean White will disappear in games. As he grows and learns, it will be interesting to see how White will find new ways to make his impact felt in games. It's worth watching White during camp because he is expected to improve from his career year in 2019. Tough to believe he can get even better? White has set the bar high, but he continues to plow through expectations each year. All this to say, it's always exciting to watch Tre.