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All-22 year in review: Buffalo Bills DT Ed Oliver

The chipaholic defensive lineman

We all know Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Ed Oliver be here for the 2022 season, but the team’s depth options are likely going to get a shuffle. As the current starter, unproven or unknown backups might mean an even more prominent role for Oliver. Let’s dive into his 2021 film to see if he’s up to the task.


Play 1

Just like last season, Ed Oliver saw a good many double-teams. Not budging is a definitive victory. Overall, Oliver holds his ground. The inability to get him off his spot leads to narrow gaps that Buffalo easily fills, and this one-yard gain started in the trenches.

Play 2

One thing that’s always been abundantly clear with Oliver is his high motor. That’s on display here, but also check out his technique on top of that. He swats away his opponent’s left hand and violently cuts around. He survives a fringe holding call and gets in a QB hit.

Play 3

Ed Oliver isn’t likely to be rag-dolling anyone around Aaron Donald-style. But then again, who is? He does, though, have sufficient strength to do the job. This is especially true when the technique is as clean as this play. Tua Tagovailoa manages to fit the pass in despite the shrinking pocket.

Play 4

I wanted to use this play to illustrate that sometimes “nothing” can be by design. Oliver isn’t going anywhere, but the one-arm technique usually suggests the lineman is playing more of a contain role. Tom Brady isn’t much of a running threat, but this flexibility allows the defender to get into passing lanes easier. This play also looks like Oliver is taking a wait-and-see approach. If he sees a clear lane he can take it. Unfortunately, the lane he might be seeing has help coming to isolate him.

Play 5

This has been mostly highlights so let’s just remember that no one is perfect. When double-teamed, any slight imperfection can be taken advantage of. Oliver is turned a little to his right to engage one offensive lineman. The second one is able to hit him from the side and the result is what you see above. It is telling that Oliver is able to break free and nearly comes back to make the tackle.

Play 6

This has a similar end to the play above, but before help arrives look at the pistons Oliver has for hands. This isn’t the height of finesse for hand-fighting but he packs a punch and has good aim on several strikes.

Play 7

Yeah, I did it. I’m making you watch a play from the fateful field goal drive. Did the whole defense fail? Ed Oliver didn’t. Really the pass rush as a whole didn’t. At the two-second mark Patrick Mahomes needs to make the throw, which is quite rushed in the grand scheme of things. For Oliver’s part, he pushes his man back enough to prevent Mahomes from stepping up. It’s arguable who causes Mahomes to slide left, but in isolation Oliver would have caused that on his own.

Play 8

Yep. Here’s a play from overtime, too. Most quarterbacks would likely be off-target on this pass thanks to Ed Oliver. He’s collapsed his part of the pocket AND it’s the part of the pocket Mahomes would step into if he needed. Instead he does a weird hop pass that I guarantee you coaches all over the country are trying to eliminate from various young quarterbacks.


Summary

Ed Oliver was good in 2020 thanks to his physical ability and high motor. He was even better in 2021. The thing that really jumped off the screen this year was the relative lack of shuffling Oliver did on the line. During his 2020 season, I noted snaps from Oliver at seven different spots on the line. And that’s not counting the fact that he flipped sides (so double that count basically). It’s not that he’s no longer floating around, it’s just not every other play like it used to be. The end result in my (sometimes) humble opinion is a better focus.

Oliver seems to have the 3T spot on lockdown. Barring injury, that bodes well for Buffalo as the depth options will likely have one-third or less time on the field. I say “or less” as the Bills love to have defensive ends kick inside on obvious passing downs.

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