When the Buffalo Bills hired Sean McDermott as head coach prior to the 2017 NFL season, fans knew that change was coming. In his first draft, McDermott snagged Matt Milano, a raw, yet athletic linebacker out of Boston College. The former safety was a playmaker and those that weren’t previously familiar with the fifth-round draft pick were quickly excited upon watching a highlight reel.
McDermott’s 4-3 defensive scheme puts a premium on athleticism at the linebacker position – something that the Bills lacked while running Rex Ryan’s 3-4 based scheme. Looking at the Carolina Panthers defense, it’s easy to see just how valued athletic ability is. Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly are two of the best at their position while Shaq Thompson is a unique athlete in his own right.
Milano is 6-foot-3, 225-pounds and plays with relentless effort while displaying a knack for making the big play. His hard-working demeanor is the mentality Bills fans cherish, but he had to earn his stripes and gain the trust of the coaches before seeing the field.
Buffalo’s coaches did a phenomenal job bringing Milano along slowly. He primarily served on special teams for the first quarter of his rookie campaign, a phase of the game he dominated during his collegiate career. He recorded six tackles and one forced fumble on return coverage last season.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”22″]”He’s physical, he has a nose for the ball, can cover well, instinctual. He just has to get reps, be put in situations, and he’ll continue to make plays.”–Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander[/perfectpullquote]
When Ramon Humber, the Bills’ starting weakside linebacker, suffered a broken thumb in Week 4, Milano finally got his opportunity and didn’t look back.
That week, he notched just two tackles but earned valuable reps in a high-pressure situation. Atlanta was attempting to drive down the field in order to gain a lead during the final minutes of the game, but Milano and the Bills’ defense held on, escaping with a huge win on the road.
Milano points out and calls the switch...Deters the throw to TE, Ryan had the RB. pic.twitter.com/2KfJqAlsWN— Cover 1 (@Cover1) October 2, 2017
But in Week 7 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Milano had his breakout performance.
Milano registered four tackles and one interception, adding one quarterback hit and an additional hurry. Fans watched the rookie fly all over the field, displaying his impressive natural athletic ability.
His shining moment was an interception with 33 seconds to play in the first half. Jameis Winston attempts to get a chunk play and swing the field position but Milano was ready.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] “It was just a cover four, I rolled in with the slot receiver and (Winston) threw it and I made a play on the ball. I wasn’t really surprised because he’s always throwing to (Brate), that’s his big target, and we knew that going into the game. So, when I saw him lined up there, I knew he was going to throw it to him. I just had it on my mind that if he does throw it, I’m going to be there in the seam to make a play on it.”–Linebacker Matt Milano [/perfectpullquote]
All-22 Film Breakdown of Matt Milano’s INT
Heading into his second year as the Buffalo Bills’ starting linebacker, the future is bright for Matt Milano who should only continue to get better.