This is the fourth of a series on 10 key questions facing the Buffalo Bills entering training camp. Read the rest of the questions here.
Tremaine Edmunds will be the center of attention on the Buffalo Bills’ defense when training camp begins July 26.
How could he not be?
At 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, the Bills’ first-round draft pick is impossible to miss when he’s manning his new position as starting middle linebacker.
With 34 1/2 inch long arms, the longest of any linebacker in the draft, he’s an octopus-like presence behind the Bills’ four-man defensive line.
“He’s a beast,” marveled Bills safety Micah Hyde.
The Bills are putting a lot of weight on Edmunds’ big, broad shoulders.
They’re asking him to step in immediately as the fulcrum of the defense, even though he just turned 20 years old in May.
Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier doesn’t minimize the task ahead of the Virginia Tech star, who was taken 16th overall in the draft.
“There will be some growing pains,” Frazier said. “As mature as he is and as athletic as he is, it's still the National Football League, and it’s pro football, with a lot of details week to week. And each game plan is not like we're going to play the exact same defense week to week. You need a guy who has the wherewithal to handle those changes and who can deal with the ups and downs in a game and a season.”
One of the reasons the Bills traded up to get Edmunds is they love his character. Edmunds’ father, Ferrell, played tight end in the NFL for seven years. His mother is an elementary school teacher. He has one brother, Trey, who plays for the Saints. His other brother, Terrell, was a first-round pick of the Steelers this year.
“His parents did a terrific job bringing him up,” Frazier said. “He's shown the maturity to handle the ups and downs. We know there are going to be some times when there's mistakes made. But we feel like he's tough-minded enough he'll learn from it and keep growing as a player.”
How quickly Edmunds is picking up his assignments will be a key to watch during training camp and preseason.
With a veteran cast returning on defense, Frazier said he did not try to limit the scheme or spoon-feed Edmunds in the spring. That would have meant holding the other starters back.
“We haven't really scaled it back with him. We've thrown it at him just to see how he could handle it, much like we did with Tre’Davious,” Frazier said, referring to last year’s Day One rookie starter, Tre'Davious White. “Tre’Davious showed us early on you don't have to spoon feed me, and Tremaine has been the same way. We've put it out there for him to see how he'd respond. He's handled everything extremely well. There's going to be some in-game situations we can necessarily prepare him for. That's part of developing as a player.”
Edmunds acknowledges he’s constantly studying.
“There's a lot I've got to make sure I've got down pat,” he said. “At the end of the day, it's just me relying on my studying that I'm doing off the field. It's about me getting in my playbook, putting concepts together.”
Edmunds said he’s benefiting from playing next to 35-year-old linebacker Lorenzo Alexander.
“He's a whole lot of help, getting his knowledge of the game, because he's done it so long,” Edmunds said. “It all falls back to how to be successful in this league. There couldn't be a greater person for me to get advice from.”
Said Alexander: “I thought Tremaine did a great job as far as being able to take in all the information because this time last year vs. at this time, we have way more defenses in as far as base defense, nickel, all of our blitzes.”
“For him to still be able to go out there and play at a high level as far as his athleticism is pretty impressive, and that’s not even to mention our offense is so multidimensional. They have every type of scheme you can think of in the game. That can slow down guys as well. He did a great job of battling through some of the mental gymnastics and getting better through the offseason program.”
When Edmunds is late with his recognition this summer, his size and speed will help him recover. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds. The man he’s replacing, Preston Brown, ran 4.79 out of college.
“He’s a beast,” said Bills safety Micah Hyde.