EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The stat sheet says Ed Oliver had a quiet professional debut Sunday for the Buffalo Bills.
The film review likely will tell a far different story.
Oliver, the Bills’ prized first-round draft pick, finished with two tackles and one quarterback hit in a 17-16 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Those numbers don’t fully account for Oliver’s impact, though. The defensive tackle consistently disrupted the pocket, setting up his teammates to get after Jets quarterback Sam Darnold.
“Nine times out of 10, the guy who gets the push is not going to be the guy who gets the sack, so I just tried to help my team execute and help myself execute,” Oliver said in the victorious locker room. “Just play to the best of my ability. If I get sack, cool. If I don't and my guys around me get a sack — as long as a linebacker or a DB or something don't get the sack, we good.”
Oliver was joking about that last part. He was all smiles after his first NFL game, saying he was ready go back out on the field and play again “right now.”
“I can honestly say it went fast,” he said. “I can just remember Kyle Williams saying 13 years went fast. This game seems like I just woke up and now the game is over. … My adrenaline is going. I might not be ready tomorrow, but right now I’m ready to go play.”
Oliver took 47 defensive snaps, which was 65 percent of the team’s total and led all defensive tackles. (Star Lotulelei had 30, Jordan Phillips played 25 and Harrison Phillips took 24)
“We've got great chemistry. That rotated us, kept us fresh,” Oliver said of the coaching staff. "They gave us a game plan. We practiced for it and we came out here and we did what we were supposed to do.”
Two plays in particular stood out for Oliver: In the first quarter, he stunted with middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and bullrushed Jets left guard Kelechi Osemele back into Darnold. That forced Darnold into the waiting arms of defensive end Jerry Hughes for the first of four Buffalo sacks.
Oliver is so powerful and disruptive.
— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) September 9, 2019
"He's a fighter," defensive end Trent Murphy said of Oliver. "He'll keep getting better, too."
Later, on second and 10 from the 50-yard line early in the third quarter, he absolutely abused Jets right guard Brian Winters, throwing the 6-foot-4, 320-pounder out of the way and landing a hit on Darnold. Take a look below:
— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) September 9, 2019
"Just him being resilient for all four quarters," Hughes said of what stood out about Oliver's debut. "We were talking to him throughout the week that it's a four-quarter ball game. No one gives up at halftime. They come out with a new game plan, and he understood that. For him to be a rookie and to understand that and to keep coming after it with different moves, keep trying to set guys up, that's him being on top of it. We're just going to keep working with that and just try to build off of it."
The Bills' four sacks have them tied for sixth in the league heading into Monday Night Football. Clearly, it's a small sample size, but that's a big improvement from the 26th-place finish of a year ago. The team also finished with nine hits on Darnold.
"I think it was definitely good," Murphy said of the pass rush's start to the year. "I think we have a lot more in the tank still. There were times when the pocket got too stagnant. We'll watch the tape and make those corrections."
Stat of the game: 17
That’s how many times the Bills either called or audibled to a pass play to start the game. Coach Sean McDermott downplayed the significance after the game, saying it was “just something we felt like we wanted to do to come out and get into a rhythm. It wasn’t anything fancy, really.”
Game ball: John Brown
Do the Bills have a legit No. 1 receiver? Brown filled that role Sunday against the Jets, catching seven passes for 123 yards and the game-winning touchdown with just 3 minutes left in the fourth quarter. That came on a 38-yard completion down the right sideline from Josh Allen. Brown was targeted 10 times in the game.
Quote of the day
“We knew it was going to be a four-quarter bar fight, and we came prepared. … Our coaches have been talking to us all spring and especially during training camp about being mentally tough, mentally strong, and I think we went out there and we displayed that.” – Defensive end Jerry Hughes
Snap count notes
1. It was close to an even split at right tackle between rookie Cody Ford and veteran Ty Nsekhe. Ford took 37 snaps (54 percent), while Nsekhe took 32 (46 percent). It will be interesting to see whether the rotation continues, or if the coaching staff settles on a starter after film review.
2. Third running back T.J. Yeldon didn’t get much work – just two offensive snaps. Yeldon did play eight snaps on special teams, which helps his value to the roster. Rookie running back Devin Singletary had 48 snaps (70 percent), while veteran Frank Gore took 19 (28 percent).
3. Slot cornerbacks Taron Johnson and Siran Neal played 33 defensive snaps each (46 percent). Johnson left the game with a hamstring injury in the third quarter and Neal was targeted in coverage shortly thereafter. Johnson’s status for next week will be closely monitored.
4. The Bills had six defensive players take every snap – linebackers Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds, along with the starting secondary of Tre’Davious White, Levi Wallace, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. Defensive end Trent Murphy led the line with 57 snaps (79 percent).
5. The key special teams players Sunday for the Bills were safety Kurt Coleman, cornerback Kevin Johnson and linebackers Corey Thompson, Julian Stanford and Maurice Alexander. All of them had 16 snaps on special teams (70 percent of the team total).
1. In a scheduling quirk, the Bills will be back at MetLife Stadium, this time to face the Giants. New York is 0-1 after getting smoked by Dallas on Sunday, 35-17. The Bills’ run defense, which was strong against the Jets, will again face a major test. Giants running back Saquan Barkley is one of the two or three best players in the NFL at his position. He opened the season by rushing 11 times for 120 yards against Dallas. The big question in New York: Why didn’t Barkley get the ball more?
2. The Giants’ defense had no pass rush to speak of Sunday, failing to register a sack of Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. New York also has major issues in the secondary outside cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Prescott threw four touchdowns, and two different Dallas receivers topped 100 yards.
3. Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones got his feet wet in garbage time, completing 3 of 4 passes on New York’s final drive. With the expectation being that New York will struggle this season, the calls to turn away from veteran Eli Manning and to the rookie are only expected to grow louder.