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Analysis of Buffalo Bills LB Terrel Bernard’s Week 1 start against New York Jets

Stats aren’t always what they seem on the surface

NFL: Buffalo Bills at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

In the Buffalo Bills 22-16 overtime loss to the New York Jets on Monday Night football, Terrel Bernard got the start at linebacker. The second-year defender was tasked with filling the shoes of former Pro Bowl linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. While Bernard totaled 11 tackles during the game, stats don’t always show the whole story of how someone played. Let’s look at the film ahead of Buffalo’s Week 2 home opener against the Las Vegas Raiders!

Terrel Bernard pancaked

As a linebacker, you want to stay off the ground as much as possible. At the snap, Bernard came downhill fast in the run game. Jets offensive guard Laken Tomlinson came across the line, blocks Bernard, and then pancakes him into the ground.

Bernard blocked by a tight end

One of the worst things that can happen for a front 7 player is getting blocked by the tight end. Here we see Bernard failing to shed Jets tight end Tyler Conklin. At the snap, Bernard came downhill to support in run defense. Conklin headed upfield and met Bernard in the hole. The Jets tight end blocked Bernard downfield and opened up a clear hole for the running back. Bernard got off the block late and then made a tackle more than 10 yards down the field.

Bernard blocked out of the play

At the snap, Bernard flowed right. He then engaged the offensive linemen, and was unable to shed the block. He was then driven out of the play completely. The inability to not only disengage the blocker but to be pushed down the field is a massive negative.

Bernard makes a solo tackle

One of the best plays Bernard made during Week 1 was set up perfectly for him. As the play started, he had a clear path to the ball carrier due to there being no Jets offensive linemen having the ability to climb up to him. Bernard then came in and made the tackle on the running back. What’s interesting about this play is that Bernard needed a wide-open hole to make the tackle one one-on-one against the running back. There was no shedding any offensive linemen, taking on any blocks, or going around anybody.

In summary

Terrel Bernard’s team-leading 11 tackles do appear good at face value. When you look at the film though, you see on a lot of those tackles that he was the second guy coming into the play and making most of his tackles downfield. In addition, Bernard was swallowed up in the run game quite often, which led to the Jets rushing for 172 yards.

Sound off in the comments: What do you guys think about Bernard's first start of the 2023 NFL season?