Truth be told, it was a challenge to select the candidates for this position. While the Buffalo Bills had a few players who were shoe-ins for the poll (Tremaine Edmunds, Nick Barnett), the past decade also featured three one-hit wonders.
First (by a technicality) was Paul Posluszny. 2010 was his final season in Buffalo before he headed to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and it was an all-around strong season. He had 151 combined tackles, two sacks, and four passes defended.
In 2013 was #TheLegendOfKikoAlonso. The rookie linebacker was a sensation, with 159 combined tackles, 11 TFLs, two sacks, four interceptions, and a forced fumble. Of course, he tore his ACL the following year and never played for the Bills again.
Finally, Zach Brown played one season in Buffalo, but made the Pro Bowl during that 2016 campaign. He had 149 combined tackles, 11 TFLs, four sacks, an interception, four passes defended, and two forced fumbles.
Ultimately, I didn’t think any of these single seasons was enough to break into the poll, but if you disagree, please let me know in the comments. If folks speak up for someone, he’ll be eligible for the second linebacker vote.
With that aside, let’s look through the candidates:
After Buffalo’s 3-4 experiment turned out to be a disaster, the Bills began to right the ship by signing the 30-year-old Barnett, a free agent from the Green Bay Packers. Barnett plugged into the middle of the defense and became an instant leader, with Pro Bowl-caliber stats on an otherwise lousy unit. He also inadvertently led to the incorporation of the Bills Mafia, joining in the fun as Bills fans teased Adam Schefter on social media.
Barnett started two seasons for the team, but the Bills cut him before his final contract year. Barnett would play one more season in Washington before ending his career.
Overall stats: 32 games started, 242 combined tackles, 15 TFLs, five sacks, four forced fumbles, six passes defended, three interceptions.
Brown, Buffalo’s third-round pick in the 2014 draft, was a plug-and-play tackling machine for the Bills’ defense. In four seasons of starts, he didn’t notch many splash plays, but just kept bringing down ball carriers in his path. That included the 2017 season, when he led the league in tackles. Overall, he started more games at linebacker than any other Bills player during the past decade.
Overall stats: 62 games started, 512 combined tackles, 21 TFLs, one sack, two forced fumbles, 10 passes defended, three interceptions.
While Brown was good to get you 100% of snaps and loads of tackles, Matt Milano has had to keep fighting to stay on the field, but the man is all about splash plays. A fifth-round pick out of Boston College, Milano started his career behind veteran Ramon Humber, but forced his way onto the field eventually. He started five games in 2017—his rookie season. 2018 was Milano’s breakout year, arguably on a Pro Bowl trajectory before a broken leg ended his season after 13 games. He returned, a little bit rusty, in 2019, but rounded into form as the year went on. Eventually, he set career highs in tackles, sacks, and passes defended.
Overall stats: 33 games started, 228 combined tackles, 26 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, 18 passes defended, four interceptions.
Along with Milano, Edmunds is in contention to land on the Players of the Decade for both the 2010’s and the 2020’s. Only 22 and now entering his third NFL season, Edmunds is right on track for a bright future. The 6’5”, 250-lb linebacker was one of Buffalo’s first-round picks in the 2018 NFL draft, and was immediately installed as the starting middle linebacker as a rookie. While he’s still developing his technique to defeat offensive linemen in the box, his incredible range and fluidity is already on display. He has recorded more combined tackles in his first two seasons than any player in franchise history.
Edmunds was selected to the Pro Bowl at the end of the 2019 season, and there’s a good chance he’ll appear in a few more before his career is through.
Overall stats: 31 games started, 236 combined tackles, 15 TFLs, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, 21 passes defended, three interceptions.
With your options listed above, place your vote!
Buffalo Bills 2010s All-Decade team: Linebacker 1
This poll is closed
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