Eddie Yarbrough does not have the element of surprise working for him this season.
The Buffalo Bills’ second-year defensive end was an unknown at training camp in 2017 but played his way into a spot on the 53-man roster.
From there, Yarbrough appeared in all 16 games, starting six, and finished with 34 tackles, one sack and two passes defensed. That production was enough to earn Yarbrough another contract as an exclusive-rights free agent this offseason. Now that he has established himself as an NFL player, however, Yarbrough needs to take the next step in his career. He said knowing that he has done it before has made a big difference.
“Knowing the plays, having a year in the books of repping these plays, and also just having a year of confidence – knowing that you played on Sunday, played under the lights,” he said. “It’s about having that confidence and trying to breed that consistency.”
The Bills invested heavily in defensive end this offseason, adding Trent Murphy, Oda Odighizuwa and Terrence Fede as free agents. Murphy figures to challenge Shaq Lawson for a starting spot, while Odighizuwa and Fede will compete for reserve roles with Yarbrough. That makes defensive end one of the more intriguing positions to follow starting next month when the team reports to St. John Fisher College.
“That's the name of the game – competition breeds excellence," Yarbrough said. “Everybody's game raises at training camp. That's what we're here to do.”
Yarbrough’s approach has stayed the same, fellow defensive end Jerry Hughes said.
“Eddie has a nonstop motor,” Hughes said. “He’s really picked his game up, just keeping himself healthy, staying in the weight room throughout the whole season. ... It's great for him to do that and be smart about the whole offseason.
“He’s not taking a victory lap because he made the team. He came back and he got right back to work. That's what I enjoy the most about him. Every day he comes in, 5:45 in the morning, he's here to work. He's here to learn. He's here to grow as a player. He pushes me to do better. He pushes a lot of guys around us.”
Yarbrough said his focus in the spring was focused on being more intense.
“Running to the ball better. Effort plays,” he said. “I can always build on that. I can always run to the ball a little bit better. ... You can never be satisfied. You’ve always got to be chasing that apple. I could have the best game in the world, but I would still probably say there's something I need to get better at. That's just the name of the game.”