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Bills rookie Tremaine Edmunds dealing with the weight of lofty expectations

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1010993820 McCoy Sports Bills Buffalo Bills

Much is expected of rookie linebacker Tremaine Edmunds for the Buffalo Bills this season. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

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Do a Google search for "Tremaine Edmunds, Defensive Rookie of the Year" and nearly 75,000 results come up.

The very first of those is a Bleacher Report article from May under the headline: "Why Tremaine Edmunds has best chance to be NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year."

Yes, it's fair to say that expectations for the Buffalo Bills' first-round draft pick are sky-high. If the first two preseason games have taught us anything, though, it's that those expectations need to be kept in check.

"We know he's a young player. We've got to manage expectations that way," coach Sean McDermott said Monday. "Certainly, he's done some nice things to this point, but has a long way to go as well. Just take it one day, one play at a time."

The Bills' run defense, of which Edmunds is a key part, was gashed in Cleveland on Friday night, as the Browns piled up 63 rushing yards on their first offensive possession.

"Listen, there are plays that he wants back, but all of those runs that broke are not on Tremaine Edmunds," McDermott said. "Every single one of them wasn't on Tremaine, and quite honestly, if you look at the tape, it's always 1/11th, so he has to do his 1/11th and so does everyone else. That's where team defense comes into play. I'm sure he's working this week on correcting his 1/11th of what went wrong in those situations and growing and getting more and more confident as we move forward."

McDermott was asked Monday about how the coaching staff goes about not overloading Edmunds with information.

"That's a valid question and good point," he said. "We talk quite a bit about that with all of our young players, with all of our players, let alone the young players for sure. In particular a position like middle linebacker, signal caller, quarterback, all those types of positions where there's a leadership component that comes inherently with that position. We spent a lot of time talking through that, communicating, managing that the best we can. At the end of the day, he'll grow into it as well, so there's that process that takes one play at a time, one week at a time. The more comfortable he gets, the more we can put on his plate."

What odds say about Tremaine Edmunds being named top defensive rookie

Edmunds admitted after the preseason opener against Carolina that he might have been "overthinking" certain things. That's not unusual for a rookie, according to McDermott.

"That tends to happen early when you're trying to get the system down and then you're also trying to anticipate what the opponent is going to do or wants to do pre-snap," he said. "I like the fact that he is proactively thinking, but sometimes if you do, and generally speaking, if one overanalyzes things, it slows you down. We've got to get all of our players where they can play fast, and that comes from the mental part of the preparation and the physical reps you get through practice.

"The older he gets, the more the game will slow down. I think you did see, in particular in the second half of the game against Carolina compared to the second half in this last preseason game, our young players as a whole made an adjustment in a positive way because the second game had slowed down for them a little bit."

Edmunds agrees with that.

"I feel like it is slowing down," he said. "Different teams are going to give you different looks, so just taking those looks, learning from it, and moving forward — I think that's the biggest thing right now."

It's easy to forget since he's 6-foot-5 and 253 pounds, but Edmunds is just 20 years old. That makes him one of the youngest players in NFL history.

"My mindset coming out every day is just to continue to get better," he said. "We all know it's a process. We don't just wake up and then everything is going to be perfect. There's going to be struggles along the way. It's about how you react to them and how you respond."

In three seasons at Virginia Tech, including two as a full-time starter, Edmunds made 112 solo tackles, 33 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, one interception and three forced fumbles. With 4.54-second speed in the 40-yard dash, he was a physical mismatch for nearly every team he played.

In the NFL, though, the speed of the game is much greater.

"Things happen out there," he said. "That's the game of football. Things are not going to be perfect out there, but like I said, it's all about how you respond. Just learn from those mistakes, come out and just keep playing football."


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