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Analysis: Tremaine Edmunds primed for a big year with Buffalo Bills

His athletic gifts are now backed with confidence.

Heading into year two of his career, the pressures on Buffalo Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds are significant. He’s going to play 100 percent of snaps and relay play calls for a defense that plans to compete to be the league’s best. In year one, his athletic gifts were evident, but Edmunds sometimes hesitated to finish plays. How is he looking with year two about to begin? With only a limited number of snaps to work with, we examined his brief preseason appearances. Here are a few noteworthy clips.

This first play example highlights a recurring issue with Edmunds, but hopefully something that will subside as he plays more and more games: his tendency to get caught up in play-action fakes.

On that play, the Bills ran a Cover-3 look with four zone defenders at medium depth. With two receivers on the outside running deep patterns, the Bills have a strong match-up, and Carolina’s only other receiver is Curtis Samuel from the slot.

Almost every underneath defender reacts to the play fake from Kyle Allen, but Edmunds is four yards ahead of anyone else before shifting gears and reversing. His vacancy opens up a throwing window, and a better pass would’ve had a 20+-yard gain.

To an extent, Edmunds is doing what the defense often asks of him: read and react. On occasion, he guesses wrong, and his explosive speed can put him further out of position as a result.

However, that’s pretty much the only complaint I could find with Edmunds during my review of his preseason performances this year.

Edmunds has grown much more comfortable in man coverage, something we started to see in December. In the Carolina Panthers game, he was matched up against tight end Chris Manhertz and backup slot receiver Jarius Wright during his limited snaps. The play below is from his first play in man coverage.

There was nothing to worry about here. Though Manhertz is a former basketball player, Edmunds still has the length to drape all around his frame. Edmunds recognizes the down and distance, makes early contact, and is not deterred in the play that forces a punt.

Other details didn’t produce splash plays, but were still worth mentioning. Edmunds is relaying plays, communicating with his teammates before and after the snap, and generally continuing to handle his responsibilities from last season. He played with good gap integrity and didn’t open any cutback lanes for runners. The couple of times he caught up with an offensive lineman, he was able to disengage in short without incurring too much wasted time or space.

It’s strange to think that a 120 tackle season with 12 passes defended was a “quiet” rookie year, but during a season featuring Darius Leonard and Leighton Vander Esch, Edmunds didn’t stand out in the league. Expect that to change this year, with Edmunds playing confidently from the get-go. He’s a fantastic fit in this defense, has the size and range to be the key difference maker in the back seven, and he’s three years younger than those other two guys. Big things are ahead for number 49.