The Buffalo Bills put on a clinic during their Week 3 win over the Washington Commanders at FedExField. While the Bills’ offense was its usual self, orchestrating a balanced and efficient attack that provided the team with over 30 points, it was Buffalo’s defense that took the Commanders to class in the rain. Perhaps no player played a bigger role in Buffalo’s win than second-year linebacker Terrel Bernard.
Here at Buffalo Rumblings and most other media outlets, we’ve been critical of the moves and decisions made at linebacker outside of Matt Milano. Words have been shed over how much importance general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott paid to adequately replacing Tremaine Edmunds. The team seemed intent on drafting smaller linebackers in the middle rounds — and to many, those players appeared destined for nothing more than roles on special teams. Linebackers Tyrel Dodson and Terrel Bernard had yet to see much game action, yet were now set to compete for a starting role.
Then this past April, the Bills drafted linebacker Dorian Williams and had him sit behind Matt Milano instead of vying for a shot at the starting MIKE position. The perception was that no one was going to be Edmunds, at least from a physical standpoint. Many wondered: “How would they meaningfully replace Edmunds’ contributions?” Well, we may have our answer, before the calendar has even turned to October.
Terrel Bernard has been nothing short of a revelation through most of three games. His play has jumped off the page due largely to his being a relative unknown in the NFL until September 11, 2023. Early on during training camp, Bernard was lost for the remainder of summer due to a hamstring injury. That didn’t appear to bold well for his chances, due to the lack of snaps and more. But Bernard was the leader in the clubhouse preceding that injury — and no one took it from him while he was out of the lineup. But instead of just being a serviceable replacement for Edmunds, Bernard has operated like a lightning bolt all over the field, no task too difficult for him to attack.
In Week 3, Bernard put together a highlight reel the likes of which some linebackers never accumulate during the course of their career. That’s not hyperbole, either. Bernard finished Sunday’s game with five total tackles, two tackles for loss, two sacks, one interceptions, and one fumble recovery. It was the second consecutive game where Bernard recorded an interception.
Keep this in mind: Sunday was only the fourth start of Bernard’s career, and he accomplished a feat not seen by an NFL defender in 15 seasons. The last player to do it? Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.
Terrel Bernard is the first NFL player to record 2+ sacks, an INT & a fumble recovery in a single game since Bears HOF LB Brian Urlacher in 2007 (12/17 at Min.) pic.twitter.com/KNlkExRJuM— Buffalo Bills PR (@BuffaloBillsPR) September 24, 2023
Mind you, this isn’t to suggest that Bernard is the next Urlacher — hopefully that’s clear. But it is worth pointing out both how rare Bernard’s accomplishment is in the NFL, and to recognize the sort of company he now keeps after his noteworthy production.
One would hope that this is just the tip of the iceberg for Terrel Bernard. That he’s destined for bigger things, and manages to sustain an elevated level of play. He’s set a lofty bar for himself, and we must remember that he’s only played significant snaps in less than a handful of games as a pro. It’s possible that we see new growing pains from Bernard still, given his lack of experience. Still, keeping Sunday’s performance in your back pocket might help to more meaningfully consider his long-term importance with the Bills.
During the broadcast, the point was made how Bernard is the prototypical linebacker for today’s game. He’s built more like a safety, with a real knack for making plays at each level of the defense. That description seems to fit each of Buffalo’s linebackers, and could hold a lot of truths as to why Edmunds now plays for the Bears. But enough about Edmunds. Let’s continue celebrating Terrel Bernard and what he’s already brought to the Bills.