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90 Buffalo Bills players in 90 days: LB Tremaine Edmunds

Is this the year where he puts it all together?

Buffalo Bills Mandatory Minicamp Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images

If you’re a Buffalo Bills fan who wants to start an argument, Tremaine Edmunds’s name is often the subject at hand. Sometimes, fans have very casual reactions about the team’s personnel. Other players, though, end up the stereotypical “lightning rod” for discussion, and that’s what Buffalo’s middle linebacker is to the current squad.

This little blurb isn’t intended to be a place where Tremaine Edmunds is either bashed or revered. It’s really just installment number 73 in our “90 players in 90 days” series. However, I know the drill. I’ll give my opinion on Edmunds, others will do the same, and the debate about whether he’s a stud or a bum or a future stud, whether he’s miscast as a middle linebacker and overrated or perfectly placed and misunderstood by fans like us, will continue on and on.

Alright folks, let’s do it.

Name: Tremaine Edmunds

Number: 49

Position: LB

Height/Weight: 6’5” 250 lbs

Age: 24 (25 on 5/2/2023)

Experience/Draft: 5; selected in the first round (No. 16 overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft by Buffalo

College: Virginia Tech

Acquired: First-round draft choice

Financial situation (per Spotrac): Edmunds is entering the final year of his contract; he’ll play out the 2022 season on the fifth-year option that comes with his draft status. That option covers this year at a cap hit of $12.716 million, and it is fully guaranteed.

2021 Recap: Edmunds played in 15 games last year, missing Buffalo’s Week 10 win over the New York Jets and the Week 11 loss against the Indianapolis Colts. Otherwise, he played 873 defensive snaps, more than all but five of his teammates on defense. He led the Bills in tackles once again, notching 108 total. Just seven of those tackles went for a loss. He had one interception, one quarterback hit, and four pass breakups. Pro Football Reference was down on his coverage numbers, too, as they had 78% of the passes completed where he was the closest defender. Those passes gained a total of 498 yards on 59 attempts, and he allowed two touchdowns where he was the closest defender in coverage. Edmunds missed ten tackles last year, which was a career low.

Positional outlook: Edmunds is one of the two top linebackers on the team, with Matt Milano slated to be the other yet again. Tyrel Dodson, Tyler Matakevich, Joe Giles-Harris, Marquel Lee, Terrel Bernard, Baylon Spector, and Andre Smith are the other off-the-ball linebackers, with Von Miller still listed as a linebacker even though we know he isn’t going to play the same role as the other players listed at the position.

2022 Offseason: Edmunds is healthy and he has participated in all team activities—voluntary and otherwise—to date.

2022 Season outlook: Stop me if you’re heard this before, but Edmunds is still young, is still a crazy athlete, and still has a ton of room to grow. We keep talking about his potential, though, rather than how dominant he is—which reminds me of one of my favorite Bill Parcells quotes. I’m paraphrasing here, but the Big Tuna said something along the lines of, “If we’re talking about your potential, it means you haven’t done anything yet.” That’s a bit of the vibe with Edmunds, as he is clearly the best option on the team to do what he does, but I’m not sure the Bills always put him in a position that allows his athleticism to take over and dominate.

The middle linebacker spot in this defense has so many checks and so many reads that it takes away from his ability to attack at full speed. Combine that with mediocrity in front of him at the defensive tackle position, the players who are supposed to make his life easier and keep him clean and free of blocks, and you have a recipe for mistakes. And Edmunds has made plenty of mistakes, especially in the run game. This year seems to be one where all of the excuses are gone, as the team has gone and acquired a better one-tech defensive tackle in DaQuan Jones, better depth at that spot with Tim Settle Jr. and Jordan Phillips, and a dominant pass-rush specialist in Miller who will keep teams from double-teaming players in the middle.

The drop-off from Edmunds to any of his backups, whether it was a veteran like A.J. Klein or younger players like Tyrel Dodson, is so large that I’m not one who thinks Edmunds is an easily-replaceable cog in the Bills’ defensive machine. I’m also not delusional enough to think that the 24 year old has played at an All-Pro level. What I do think is that, with some tweaks defensively (remember those double A-gap looks with Edmunds and Milano we used to see so frequently? What happened to those?) that allow for more aggression, there’s another level in Edmunds’s play that’s yet to be unlocked. Edmunds will have these next seven months to prove that the Bills should pay him plenty of cash to stick around for them to make it happen.