There’s been a lot of finger pointing toward the Buffalo Bills’ defense this year and in plenty of directions. While some of the more common concerns include entire groups like the line, or coaching philosophy, when it comes to individual blame there’s a hell of a spotlight on Tremaine Edmunds. Let’s shine it a bit brighter.
NOTE: Two things to get out of the way before we do this. First, I’m absolutely of the opinion that a shoulder injury is a major issue for a position where tackling is 90% of the job description. This is why I chose the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs games to go off of, to avoid looking at “injured Edmunds.” Second, Lorenzo Alexander has been defending Edmunds on social media, including suggesting that the injury was the primary problem. Let’s see if I agree. Though please note, if you have to choose between trusting Alexander or trusting me the choice is clear.
As noted, this is his first play of the season and it set quite the tone for Tremaine Edmunds. This is a common assignment for Edmunds, or rather common assignments. The Bills like to use him as a quarterback spy and, as expected, to roam the middle zone. Here he does both and quite well.
Why not play some corner too?
His first goal here is to cover his zone. He waits to see who he needs to pick, executes that via an escort through the area he’s defending and passes the assignment off on the back end. By that time the ball comes out and Edmunds comes screaming across the field to get in on the tackle.
One of the biggest gripes with Edmunds is that he’s prone to hitting the wrong gap or guessing the play direction wrong. I’d like to go on record and say that wasn’t a problem against the Jets. Edmunds drives the play further left because he is occupying the right spot. He then pushes through to get back into the mix.
Against the Jets, Edmunds was impressive. That said, the Jets relied heavily on the passing game and Edmunds excelled in coverage.
This play is a bit of a mixed bag. Edmunds waits to see the play develop. There’s a fine line between patient and hesitant but I think he gets this one right. Of note, it looks like his assignment is to hold up a blocker and keep a lane clean. If that sounds like the role of a defensive lineman, it’s because it usually is. This is a semi-regular assignment for Edmunds.
For this play, A.J. Klein is coming behind Edmunds and is a bit late to the gap and doesn’t attack as much as he probably could have. Coming back to what Edmunds does, he tries to shed the block to dive for the tackle. Edmunds is inconsistent shedding and we see some trouble here. For the record I’m not confident his assignment puts him in position to make a tackle anyway, but if you’re talking straight up how well did he execute a given skill this isn’t so hot.
Here we have another play juggling the spy and zone coverage roles. With no one entering his zone he can focus exclusively on Patrick Mahomes and does a great job containing the play. Plays like this were common in both the Jets and Kansas City games. Not only does Edmunds look like a locomotive bearing down on Mahomes, but his height and wingspan create a formidable obstacle for passing lanes.
Now, that’s not to say he doesn’t make mistakes. It’s hard to say for sure, but it looks like he loses track of the ball and starts to go after Mahomes. He realizes the error but it’s too late. This is a tough play but some criticism is warranted. A similar error led to one of Kansas City’s touchdowns.
This is an egregious example so please don’t think this happens a lot. The point to illustrate though is that Edmunds can lack physicality against a block. This is especially true while moving side to side. If I had to guess, I’d say his height is not a benefit here. It’s harder to maintain a low stance on the move and Edmunds has to get even lower than most linebackers due to his 6’5” frame.
To expand on that idea, he’s around the same height as most offensive linemen but gives up 50-80 lbs. A shorter player would have an easier time offsetting the mass disadvantage by more easily being able to play lower and gain a leverage advantage.
In this case you can see Edmunds gets low and shrugs off the block with his left shoulder. The result is a great job shadowing the play and making the tackle.
Tremaine Edmunds isn’t a flawless player. He will occasionally have an error in judgment that leads to a negative play. His height is a blessing in passing lanes, but likely a curse while blocking on the move. He’s looking more comfortable tackling but still doesn’t impose his will on opponents.
Despite all that, I have to agree with Lorenzo Alexander. Tremaine Edmunds does not appear to be a problem.