The Buffalo Bills continued OTAs on Tuesday and as they entered week 2, the coordinators spoke with the media on Tuesday. Below we have the transcript of defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who discussed Ed Oliver, the emergence of Tremaine Edmunds, the competition at cornerback, and more.
DC Leslie Frazier
Opening statement: I hope everybody had a good Memorial Day weekend. We got back to work today and guys were really into it, a lot of energy at practice. Sean put us in some different situations that, hopefully, will bode well for use when the season rolls around. The guys have been working extremely hard, we’ve had great attendance. It’s really been a good four OTAs, a good offseason up to this point. Hopefully we can just build on that in the remaining days that we have. So far, so good with our guys.
Q: It looks like one of the best competitions in the whole camp is at cornerback. On your side of it, have you liked what you’ve seen out of the guys who are competing at that spot?
A: Yeah, you’re right. The corner position, we’ve got some good competition. We’ll see how it unfolds as time goes on but right now it’s really good to watch. To see those guys compete every single snap and battling for a spot. Who’s going to be the starter? Levi [Wallace] is the incumbent, he’s done a really good job for us, played well for us down the stretch last season. We’ll see how it shakes out.
Q: Specifically on Kevin Johnson, obviously he missed almost all of last year, but that’s a first-round talent from four years ago. What do you like about that signing and what he might be able to bring to you guys?
A: Well, you’re right. He’s a former first-round pick who had a good career in Houston, the injuries are kind of what sidetracked him. You saw the ability coming out of college. He did a really good job in his rookie year, off to a really good start. The injuries have kind of [crept] up. We’re hoping that he can stay healthy, we know he has the talent to really help us. We’ll see as time goes on.
Q: What do you make of Trent Murphy and for a guy who, maybe, was a little self-delusional last year, thinking he could be at 100-percent while rehabbing for all that stuff? What do you make of him a year later?
A: I’ve told him a few different times as we’ve gone through some drills here in OTAs how different he looks. Of course, last year at this time he was, like you said, coming off the injury and the surgery and really kind of feeling his way. The confidence, the movement, everything looks so much better. We’re hoping that continues as we get farther along, but he’s a different player. You would expect that, coming off of the type of injury that he had. As his confidence grows and the fact that he is more comparable to what we’re doing on defense as well, all that helps. He looks really good, he’s come a long way from a year ago at this time.
Q: Was there an expectation last year that this was going to be a two-year thing? You couldn’t really expect Trent Murphy to be the Trent Murphy of two years earlier last year. Did you factor that in when you were assessing what he looked like last year?
A: Absolutely, we knew coming off the type of injury that he had that it takes time, not only from a physical standpoint but a mental also, where you gain the confidence to be able to do the things that you did before. We’re seeing the fruits of that because he works extremely hard and he’s done a good job in his preparation for this offseason. As I mentioned, he’s just a different-looking player today than he was a year ago at this time. We did factor in the fact that he’s coming off a major surgery, it was going to take a little time. Fortunately for us, he was able to give us some snaps during the season. That will help us going into 2019.
Q: What’re your early impressions of Ed Oliver and what he can mean for this defense?
A: Ed’s done a really good job up to this point. I don’t think it’s been overwhelming for him, with the meetings along with what we’re doing on the practice field. You see his quickness, you see his burst. As he continues to get a better grasp on what we’re asking him to do on defense, I think you’ll see more of his athleticism as well. Up to this point, we’ve been impressed with what we’ve seen and we’ll just keep watching his maturation over the next few months.
Q: Did you have a pretty big smile on your face on draft night, when you looked at number nine and he was there?
A: Absolutely, because we went through so many different scenarios with Brandon and his staff and the scouts, some showed that he would be there, some showed that he wouldn’t be there. You were like, man, and you’re sweating right up to the point that he’s still there at nine. It was a lot of high-fives in the defensive meeting room when he was there at nine. It was great for us.
Q: You touched on it a little bit, but what kind of learning curve is there for Ed in trying to get up to speed with some of the veterans? How much does it help having Star [Lotulelei] line up next to him, a guy who has been around and seen it all.
A: The learning curve part for Ed is not only picking up our system and grasping that but coming to the National Football League as well. For instance, one of the things that you have to be able to deal with is this locker room is just so different from what he came from at the University of Houston. The competition is different, so there’s a learning curve when it comes to that. There are some guys who can match up a little bit better than some of the people that he played against in college so you have to be able to get through that. Then you throw in what we’re doing from a defensive standpoint that’s a different scheme than the scheme that he came from. Being able to grasp that and being able to go out there and play fast. You need a guy like Star or even a guy like Harrison [Phillips] who has gone through it just a year ago to talk to you and help you get through some of those days where you start to wonder if you’re ever going to get it. So, you need that and we’re fortunate to have some veteran guys in that meeting room to help him along the way.
Q: I know it’s early, what differences have you seen in Tremaine [Edmunds] on the field now as opposed to his first steps here just a year ago.
A: Probably the biggest thing is the confidence. It’s extremely high now and you see it in the way he communicates, he has a much better grasp of what we want to get done on defense and what his role is within that. His ability now to communicate with no hesitation, to know exactly what we’re looking for as a coaching staff, you see the evidence in the way he’s practicing and the way he’s communicating with his teammates, which gives those guys confidence in our middle linebacker. He’s grown over the offseason and from some of the things that happened as a rookie as well. The confidence is probably the one thing that’s sticking out more and more.
Q: Going back to Ed Oliver, what do you think about the combination of his size and speed as a 3-technique playing at 280 pounds?
A: That’s a good question and one that we’ve talked about a lot in the process. Bill Teerlinck, our defensive line coach and I had a lot of conversations about transcending from college football at 280 pounds to the NFL at 280 pounds as a 3-technique in our scheme. For us, we don’t necessarily feel like we have to have a 300-pounder or a real heavy guy at that position. We need a guy with great quickness, great get-off, that has strength and athleticism, and Ed has those qualities. He had a lot of what we were looking for at that position and he’s so explosive. He has some rare physical traits that we didn’t want to ignore. We feel like his strengths are matched for what we’re looking for at our defensive tackle, especially the 3-technique, and that’s what kind of sold us. The more we watched the tape, the more we were around him, we saw the things that we were looking for and the qualities that we needed to really help us at that position.
Q: Does it help when you look at Kyle Williams having played that position? I think Kyle was a little bit bigger, not to compare the way they play, but they do have similar traits.
A: They do, they’re built somewhat similar. You’re right that you don’t want to get ahead of yourself as far as the comparison, but when you look at them you can see some of the comparisons. For Ed, when we were going through the process, his quickness, his athleticism, his power, his burst, those things just jump off of the table at you. There have been some other guys at his size who have succeeded in our league. You don’t want to ignore that and you want to take advantage of it if you can. He fits what we do and we’re looking forward to people hopefully giving him some one-on-ones and him having some success against some of the guards in our league.
Q: Kyle was the biggest voice on that defense for so long, in his absence early on in this offseason program, who has assumed that role?
A: Without question, Lorenzo Alexander. He is probably the voice of our defense for our team. He was kind of in that role, to a degree, when Kyle was here as well. Now, it’s really thrust upon him to lead us and he’s done a great job at it, he did a great job when Kyle was here as well. He’s accepted that role and I think the players look to him and expect him to be the voice for our defense and he doesn’t shy away from it.
Q: Kyle used to call a lot of your pass rushes, is that going to be a shared responsibility moving forward?
A: That is something that we have talked about a lot and that’s one of the things we’ll miss from Kyle, how he took control of our defensive line in certain situations and was really a coach on the field. We put it to our players, we wanted to ask them who was going to be that guy to step up and have the courage to put the time in. You have to put the time in studying tape to be able to communicate what we want to do up front. Then the guy has to have confidence and the only way you have confidence is if you know what you’re talking about. We’ll see how that goes over time, we have an idea of who we want to do it and we’ve already begun that process. We’ll see how it shakes out in the next weeks and months to come.
Q: Who do you think will work in the slot to compete with Taron Johnson?
A: We’d like to be able to get some depth at that position. Last year, Rafael Bush did a good job for us in that role. We’re going to let Siran Neal get a shot at that position as well, we have Denzel Rice taking some stabs at it and we may even give Kevin [Johnson] a shot at it. We also have E.J. Gaines who played it for us at times a couple years ago and he’ll get some stabs at it. We’ve got a group of guys who will be battling at that backup slot position.
Q: How much has Tremaine grown in that leadership role?
A: Like I said earlier, I think he has grown tremendously. It goes back to the year he has under his belt and the confidence he’s gained as a player. He’s grown quite a bit and he’ll grown even more. We’re still early in the process for him. There’s a lot more growth to be done but he’s come a long way from a year ago.