Buffalo Bills: Ranking the linebacker groups in the AFC East
By Rob Spehar
1) Buffalo Bills
Projected Starters: Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, A.J. Klein
There is a case to be made that the 2020 edition of the Buffalo Bills is the best defensive unit that management has put together. Last season saw the Bills defense finish third overall and finish in the top ten in seven categories. That list includes sacks, run defense, points allowed, total defense, pass defense, points allowed, and third down defense. Leslie Frasier has done some outstanding game planning and head coach Sean McDermott’s no nonsense style has these guys playing as a complete unit instead of individually. That is why there really isn’t only one guy that stands out among the rest.
During the offseason, the Bills lost Lorenzo Alexander to retirement. A true veteran leader will be missed, but the linebacker position is now anchored by two of the best young second level players in the league in Tremaine Edmunds and a very underrated Matt Milano. Edmunds was selected by the Bills in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Virginia Tech after the Bills traded up with the Baltimore Ravens to get him. Edmunds is a physical freak who is great in slot coverage and is able to adapt and learn form his mistakes quickly. He is young and has a great career ahead of him. Since entering the league, Edmunds has posted some good numbers. 207 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 21 passes defended and 1 safety.
Matt Milano is one of those guys that seems to be overlooked. Drafted 163rd overall out of Boston College in 2017, many expected him to be a special teams player at most. This will be his fourth year in the league and with every passing year, he has gotten better at his positions. His tackle numbers have increased and he can stick with the running back and tight ends in coverage.
He had his best season in 2019 where he had 92 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble and fumble recovery, and 9 passes defended. After exceeding the expectations of many, he has established himself as one of the better young linebackers in the league.
A.J. Klein was signed in the offseason as a free agent from the New Orleans Saints and he will fill in the hole, quite admirably, that was left by Alexanders’ retirement. He will only strengthen an already tough linebacker group in Western New York.
If this trio can stay healthy for the full season, the sky’s the limit as to what they will be able to accomplish. For more depth, you have Vosean Joseph entering his second year with the Bills and Tyler Matakevich was signed as a free agent from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Those two round out a strong and deep linebacking group in Buffalo.