With the departure of Tremaine Edmunds, one of the biggest questions surrounding the Buffalo Bills this offseason was: “Which player would take Edmunds’ place at the linebacker position opposite Matt Milano?” With the final preseason tilt in the books, all signs are pointing to Tyrel Dodson being the man in the “MIKE” linebacker spot. At this point, until we know more about the timetable for Terrel Bernard and Baylon Spector’s return to play — Dodson’s path to starting has never looked more clear. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how Dodson did against the Justin Fields-led Chicago Bears.
Play 1 — Eyes ahead
Prior to the snap, Tyrel Dodson could be seen communicating with the defensive backfield. Knowing he had help behind him, he kept his eyes forward — which allowed him to see the play and crash toward the intended target.
Play 2 — Definitely not a “middle” anything
While Buffalo is known for a zone-based defense, there’s no such thing as a “pure” version of that. The Bears spread out wide and Dodson shadowed his man rather than sitting on a zone. Buffalo had good matchups pretty much across the board on this play. There was a short window of opportunity for Dodson’s man to be targeted early on, but it’s unlikely a completion would have yielded much.
Play 3 — Physicality/aggression
A lot has been said about Dodson getting into some dust-ups/arguments at training camp, with many hoping he can carry that “enthusiasm” onto the field to use against his opponent. This play sure looks like it. Dodson also followed the run pretty well and made sure he was in traffic to help stop it.
Play 4 — Testing his 40 time
Dodson made a good decision to start pursuit on this and as a result we get to see him in deep coverage. It’s a shame this wasn’t where the ball was thrown as that’s the best way to tell how good the coverage would have been. A good throw is likely completed over Dodson, but he was in position to possibly make a play.
Play 5 — Bites on run
Dodson seemed to read “run” here and crashed to the line to stop it. By the time he began backpedaling, it was an easy pitch and catch.
Play 6 — Recognition
One of the fun things about doing this is that more than one thing can be true on any given play. Here, Dodson reacted well to the play, took as good of an angle as he could, and... the Bears just played it even better. If it weren’t for the lead blocker, this clip would have been all celebration for Dodson.
Play 7 — Crash and tackle
With a ton of yardage needed by the Bears, Buffalo played things a bit off. Dodson dropped back to cover the deeper zones. As soon as the throwing motion began, Dodson keyed in on the play and limited the gain to “trivial.”
It’s always tougher to gauge things on preseason film. Busted and just flat-out wonky plays are more frequent with less time spent on scheming for an opponent. Overall, Tyrel Dodson seemed to be playing pretty well. Not perfect by any means, but pretty well. In just a few drives, Dodson was asked to do quite a bit against the Bears and generally held his own. I’d leave my impression as “cautiously optimistic.”