When the Buffalo Bills used high draft picks on rookie quarterback Josh Allen (selected No. 7 overall) and middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (No. 16 overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft, head coach Sean McDermott knew it would take time for his youngsters to adapt to the speed of the professional game.
Following their rookie seasons, which saw both Allen and Edmunds enjoy a fair share of success while enduring some rough patches, McDermott has issued a challenge to his offensive and defensive quarterbacks: develop into leaders on the playing field and in the locker room.
Addressing the media Tuesday during the NFL’s annual owners meeting, McDermott singled out both Allen and Edmunds as young players who must bear more of the leadership responsibilities, especially in light of the leadership void created by the retirement of defensive tackle Kyle Williams.
“We’re trying to put a team together and the bottom line is Josh is a big part of that,” McDermott said of his strong-armed rookie quarterback out of Wyoming. “His leadership and Tremaine’s leadership will be key to our success, at a young age, because there’s a gap with what we had last year. Year-three and year-four players, there was an absence of that in our locker room. We’ve added there somewhat in free agency, but Josh and Tremaine on the offensive and defensive side are two young players who are going to have an added amount of responsibility from a leadership standpoint this year.”
Both Allen and Edmunds assumed leadership roles thanks to their positions on the field.
Allen, who bounced back from a right elbow injury against the Houston Texans to guide the Bills to a 3-3 record over their final six games, completed 52.8 percent of his passes for 2,074 yards with ten touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also rushed for 631 yards and eight touchdowns on 89 carries, good for an average of 7.09 yards per rush. He had a 67.9 passer rating and a 52.0 Total QBR, second-best to Baker Mayfield among rookies and 12th-best among rookie quarterbacks since ESPN began tracking the stat in 2006.
Edmunds overcame an erratic first half of the season to finish his rookie campaign on a high note, earning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month honors after accumulating 43 tackles with 4 pass breakups, 2 interceptions, and a sack in December. When he recorded his first career interception in a Week 14 loss to the New York Jets, Edmunds, 20, etched his name into the league’s record books as the youngest player in league history with an interception. He led the team with 121 tackles and 12 pass breakups, and added two interceptions and two forced fumbles while appearing in more than 96 percent of the team’s snaps.
After one year of seasoning in the NFL, including taking their share of lumps, the torch has been passed to Buffalo’s two talented first-round picks to serve as exemplary members of the team on and off the field.