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Bills camp: Ed Oliver continuing upward trajectory into fourth season

The Bills’ first-round pick is going to be a problem in 2022

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Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

“Cheat codes.” “Monsters.” “Freaks.”

The Buffalo Bills’ defensive line has earned a few nicknames in training camp already this season, and the name on the lips of all the offensive teammates handing out those descriptions is defensive tackle Ed Oliver. Sure, lots of talk has been thrown the way of free-agent signing Von Miller, but that was the expectation. Oliver, the Bills’ fourth-year defensive tackle, has been consistently improving his entire career and seems ready to break out.

Oliver has made a home in Buffalo’s backfield this training camp, working against the Bills’ backups at guard with Rodger Saffold dealing with cracked ribs and Ryan Bates out with soreness for a good chunk of the week. Still, he’s beating players with loads of NFL starting experience at the guard position on a routine basis.

Before Monday’s practice, head coach Sean McDermott said Oliver was off to a “really good start and that continued during the day. During Monday’s practice in third-and-long situations, McDermott had to take the starting defensive line off the field so the offense could get some work. They weren’t even able to get off passes.

Here’s Joe Buscaglia’s (The Athletic) take on Oliver’s performance from Monday:

“By my count, Oliver ended the session with two sacks, three other pressures and one tackle for loss. The Allen-led offense ran a total of 26 plays in team drills. Because of natural substitutions, Oliver sat out some of those snaps, which only reinforced how outstanding he performed as a pass rusher all day.”

Pairing Oliver with Miller on one side of the line would likely peak the attention of the other team, shifting the blocking scheme. It’s only going to open up more opportunities for Greg Rousseau on the opposite side, along with helping the linebackers if they’re called upon for a blitz. Oliver is pushing for splitting up himself and Miller and placing them on opposite sides in a pick-your-poison situation for the line. The Bills are going to be able to dictate the line of scrimmage in key passing situations, just like McDermott wants.

“It is cheating when we are on the same side, it’s definitely a win,” said Oliver, referring to earlier comments from center Mitch Morse. “But I think when we are on opposite sides from each other, it’s even better,” Oliver said. “I know Mitch said on the same side and like you got to make sure you take care of them. But when we’re on opposite sides, which one do you take care of?”

You can imagine a classic 90s-era bedroom poster with Oliver and Miller in matching cowboys hats with a fun “Corralling QBs” headline or something. The pair is a duo to be reckoned with. They aren’t alone on the DL, though.

“Everybody’s good,” Oliver said Monday after practice, naming every player along the defensive line. “Everybody’s making plays. That makes the day go by faster and keeps the energy high. This D-line now is special.”

Oliver finished 2021 strong, with 3.5 sacks in the last four regular-season games and 13 pressures, per Pro Football Focus. His focus so far in 2022 is on making plays and, to that end, he’s succeeding.