In the 2022 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills selected a corner and a running back with their first two selections. These were nearly universally met with approval. In round three they went linebacker, which was...confusing for many. Running mostly out of nickel and with two very entrenched linebackers, the obvious question was where the new guy, Terrel Bernard from Baylor by the way, would fit in. Maybe his film might reveal his skill set, and we can go from there.
Social media’s first reaction seemed to be pointing out that Terrel Bernard is on the small side for a linebacker. This is 100%, objectively true by the way. I toyed with showing a clip of Bernard not moving piles and calling out his size, but I’m pretty sure a sentence or two has it covered and why needlessly create a lowlight clip? If he’s small he should be fast and agile to make up for it, right? Well, he seems to be that too.
In Play 1 he knifes through and slows the ball carrier down. Here’s a similar play where he exclusively makes the tackle.
You’d want your smaller guy to be able to flow to the sideline quickly too. And that’s another thing to like about Bernard. Something like this might have been on the brain when the Bills made the pick.
This clip kind of caught me by surprise. It’s not that a linebacker can’t use a compact swim maneuver, and Bernard surely isn’t the first either. It’s just not the expectation. Smaller players need to learn to win without overpowering the man in front of them and technique matters.
Technique matters a lot in fact.
I won’t take credit for this. The first person I saw make the following comparison was our own Dan Lavoie. Terrel Bernard profiles similarly to Matt Milano in many respects. So what do the Bills have in mind with this pick? It’s not likely to dump Matt Milano right, that’s for sure. Perhaps they like the upside and figured the worst case is a depth upgrade. Perhaps the “Big Nickel” might be shifting to the “Tiny 4-3.” Ultimately, Bernard’s skillset seems to match a lot of what the Bills like to do.