In the modern NFL, linebackers who can shed blocks effectively and also cover athletic running backs and tight ends are crucial players for any defense. The Buffalo Bills knew this, and they were able to find one such linebacker late in the 2017 NFL Draft.
In our latest “90 players in 90 days” piece, we look at a second-year man looking to claim an even larger role on the defense than he had in his successful rookie season.
Name: Matt Milano
Height/Weight: 6’0” 223 lbs.
College: Boston College
Draft: Drafted in the fifth round (163rd overall) by the Buffalo Bills in the 2017 NFL Draft
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Milano enters the second year of a four-year rookie contract worth $2,661,506. His 2018 salary cap hit will be $620,376.
2017 Recap: It was a very good rookie season for the first of Buffalo’s fifth-round selections. Milano played in all 16 games, making five starts. He totaled 43 tackles, two passes defended, two interception, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery that he returned 40 yards for a touchdown. Overall, Milano played 40.61% of Buffalo’s defensive snaps, and he also appeared on 51.72% of the Bills’ special teams snaps.
Positional outlook: Milano looks to be the favorite to start at weakside linebacker, with Lorenzo Alexander serving as the starter on the other side. Rookie Tremaine Edmunds looks to be the starter at middle linebacker. Veteran Ramon Humber, who opened 2017 as the starting weakside linebacker, will also battle for time and roster spots, as will Julian Stanford, Corey Thompson, Tanner Vallejo, Xavier Woodson-Luster, and Deon Lacey.
2018 Offseason: Milano missed some time during mandatory minicamp due to a hamstring injury, but he participated in OTAs and talked about his comfort level in the defense as he enters his second year.
2018 season outlook: At worst, Milano has a role as the team’s nickel linebacker, as any 4-2-5 alignment will most likely include him and Edmunds as the “2.” At best, Milano will play all three downs, although his slight frame makes it hard for him to hold up at the point of attack in short-yardage situations. Milano proved that he belongs in the NFL as a rookie; now, he has to prove that he can consistently play three downs in his second year.