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Reviewing Matt Milano's game vs. Bengals before linebacker's second career start in Week Seven

As we learned during his time in Carolina with the Panthers, the linebacker position is vital for Sean McDermott's 4-3 scheme.

With the defensive line tasked to get upfield most of the time, the second-level defenders must be highly skilled run-stoppers and fluid in coverage.

Veteran Ramon Humber earned a starting linebacker gig during training camp and the preseason but was injured in Buffalo's win over the Falcons in Week Four. Rookie fifth-rounder Matt Milano made his first career start next to Preston Brown against the following week.

With Humber still sidelined, Milano is set to make his second start on Sunday against the Buccaneers.

Let's review how Milano played in Cincinnati over Columbus Day weekend.

Bills athletic comparison profile: Rookie linebacker Matt Milano

He appeared on defense on 41 snaps, and received an overall grade of -0.1 from Pro Football Focus, which consisted of a -0.3 pass-rush grade, 0.0 grade in coverage, and +0.2 run-defense score.

Milano's overall grade ranked 34th among 68 qualifying linebackers in Week Five.

He had three tackles, all of which were labeled as "stops."

Stops are tackles categorized as a "success" for the defense based on yardage accumulated relative to the distance needed for a first down on a given play.

He was targeted twice, allowed a pair of catches for 19 yards and did not miss a tackle.

Obviously 41 snaps is an incredibly small sample size to judge a rookie linebacker. And while Milano didn't have a spectacular debut as a starter in Week Five, there certainly were flashes of impressive play, particularly when he was asked to stop the run.

The Buccaneers are currently 24th in the NFL with a 3.9 yards-per-carry average.

In his final two seasons at Boston College, Milano recorded an unusually high number of tackles for loss relative to how many total tackles he amassed.

He had 29.5 tackles for loss on 117 tackles, which was largely due to his primary alignment near the line of scrimmage as a strongside linebacker, athletic talents and play-recognition skills.

(Grades and stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus)

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