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How Matt Milano has taken his game to the next level by becoming a vocal leader

Matt Milano (58). Buffalo Bills vs Washington Football Team at Highmark Stadium, September 26, 2021.  Photo by Ben Green
Matt Milano (58). Buffalo Bills vs Washington Football Team at Highmark Stadium, September 26, 2021. Photo by Ben Green

There are a lot of different personalities on this Bills team. Some guys are more outspoken, and some are more reserved. Matt Milano is one of the quieter players on the roster and lets his play on the field speak for itself. 

After receiving a four-year contract extension this offseason, Milano has gotten off to a fast start to begin the Bills 2021 campaign. He has taken more of a command of the defense and has racked up six tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, 1.0 sack, two passes defensed, and two fumble recoveries. Like many players on this Bills defense, Milano flies to the ball and makes game-changing plays. 

Milano decided to stay in Buffalo because of the culture and because he believes this team can be special. Milano wanted to play a bigger role for the team this season and for him, that meant being a little more vocal.

"It's definitely on my mind a little bit more," Milano said after Thursday's practice. "I'm just trying to take that next step in my game, just looking to improve. (It) helps me out and helps the team out as well, so anything I can do for that is what I'm going to do."

Milano battled through multiple injuries during the 2020 season and felt he wasn't the player he wanted to be at times. This season, Milano is back. Through the first three games, Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of 89.8 which is the highest graded defensive player on the team.

Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has seen Milano take his game to another level in terms of his intensity and feels he's playing faster than in 2020. Frazier can depend on Milano to help Tremaine Edmunds make sure the defense is always on the same page. 

"To see Matt now verbally communicate, and really echo some of what Tremaine's commands are, it's making us a better defense and it's making him a better player," Frazier said. "It forces him to lock in on every little detail. And it's something he's embraced from the offseason, through the preseason, and now through the regular season. So, it's really good for our defense that he's become more vocal in the communication."

Milano has been an influential part of this defense since he was drafted as a fifth-round pick in 2017. Since then, Milano leads the team in tackles for loss with 36 and ranks fourth on the team in total tackles with 289. Milano is having fun and believes the defense has been in a good rhythm to start the season. 

"I'm just feeling really good out there health-wise," Milano stated. "My mind's right, playing fast, everybody around me is playing fast as well. I think once the collective unit is really flying around, that's when plays start happening."

The Bills currently have the NFL's fourth-ranked defense with Milano being a big contributor for the unit. He currently leads the team with six tackles for loss which is also tied for the NFL lead, is tied with AJ Epenesa with three QB hits, and leads the team with two forced fumbles. Frazier watched Milano work on himself and his game throughout the offseason and it's now paying off. 

"Matt seems to be playing with so much more confidence," Frazier said. "You can see it in his urgency, the way he's practicing, the way he's playing. He's much more vocal than he's ever been, there's just another whole level to his play. … And it's really becoming infectious with the rest of our players, so I just love the energy that he's bringing and the fire that he's playing with, and hopefully, that will continue."

Even the Bills offensive players have noticed Milano take the next step in terms of leadership and becoming more vocal than he was in the past. Milano told the media that there is nothing special to being more vocal you just simply have to talk more. Emmanuel Sanders has seen Milano grow as a player even just from the beginning of training camp and before the season started he gave Milano some good advice. 

"He's just a chill guy. He's not going to say too much but when he gets on the field his play speaks loudly. I think every team is built like that. You got guys who are vocal, and then you got guys who don't say too much but when they get on the field they play. … I tell Matt, just be who you are and keep being who you are because at the end of the day it's working for him and it's working for the team."

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