For the first time, Ed Oliver took the opening snap of team work at Buffalo Bills training camp on Sunday. It took two weeks for the team’s first-round draft pick to play his way into the starting lineup.
That’s not to say Oliver has been bad. The Bills wanted him to have to earn it. Oliver has been the most talented player on the field since high school, and in the NFL they didn’t want him to have a sense of entitlement. Couple that with Jordan Phillips playing at a high level, and Oliver sat.
Following goal-line work at Friday night’s scrimmage with Oliver blowing up play after play, and the rookie being taken out of snaps last week because he was being too disruptive inside, it was too much to keep him out any longer. Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier didn’t even wait until after the preseason opener.
Oliver didn’t disappoint with the starters. The Athletic named him their defensive MVP on Sunday.
You saw Buffalo employ the slow roll with Josh Allen a year ago but you’ve also seen them throw rookies in from the get-go in Cody Ford, Tremaine Edmunds, and Tre’Davious White. They had fewer options with Edmunds and White, but Buffalo has been comfortable with rookies in starting roles over the last few years.
Buffalo has operated with a strong three-man rotation so far in camp with Oliver and Phillips joined by Star Lotulelei. Harrison Phillips was a distant fourth. If Lotulelei and Oliver play 60% of the snaps, that’s the type of rotation McDermott likes on his defensive line. Add in a healthy 40% for Jordan Phillips, some pass rush snaps for Lorenzo Alexander, and you can see Harrison Phillips’s snaps dwindling.
That’s all a good problem to have on a defensive line that wasn’t up to snuff in 2018.