Bills LB Tremaine Edmunds using brutal outing vs. Chargers as learning experience


Tremaine Edmunds won’t be able to legally purchase a beer for another 10 months but despite being just 20-years old, the rookie has been trusted to lead the Buffalo Bills defense.  The ‘Mike’ linebacker shoulders enormous responsibility, as he is responsible for communicating checks, play calls and essentially serving as the quarterback of the defense.  But while the former Virginia Tech superstar has enormous potential, his transition to the NFL has been a bumpy road. After an impressive debut against the Baltimore Ravens, he had his “Welcome to the NFL, rookie” moment in Week 2 as Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers made a concerted effort to attack the young defender that Buffalo moved up to select with the No. 16 overall pick in the draft.

Ken Whisenhut and the Chargers attacked Edmunds early and often in the passing game. Los Angeles using creative route concepts and multiple formations to either isolate the the 6-foot-5, 252-pound athletic phenom or make him defend the entire width of the field. He made his share of mistakes on his own, finding himself in poor position on a handful of occasions. But on the whole, it was a reminder that in the NFL, athleticism can only get you so far and Edmunds not showing the instincts or quick mental processing that he did in college is a perfect example of that.

According to Pro Football Focus, Edmunds was targeted 11 times in pass coverage and he surrendered 10 receptions for 111 yards. Running backs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler accounted for five of those catches for 54 yards and a score. Los Angeles often used motion to get Edmunds in man coverage versus one of their talented backs who ran wheel or flat routes.

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Here is an example of the Chargers forcing Edmunds to play sideline to sideline. He shows off his great speed to get to the flat and make the tackle, but Los Angeles was still able to pick up a chunk of yardage.

When the Chargers went to spread formations, Keenan Allen – one of the best route runners in the NFL – made Edmunds look silly, running quick hitches before juking away, leaving the rookie grasping at air.

Rivers is one of the more aggressive quarterbacks in the NFL and once he recognized that Edmunds was struggling with his zone drops and biting hard to stop the run, he took full advantage of the mismatch. In the following play, Los Angeles is in an unbalanced formation with six offensive linemen and a tight end brought in to block.

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The heavy set indicated that the Chargers were showing run, but Rivers sold the play-fake well and Melvin Gordon ran a short hook before planting and releasing to the flat. Edmunds was fooled, biting on the run and while he was able to backpedal rather quickly, it wasn’t enough to stick with the 25-year old, who found the endzone three times Sunday.

While Tremaine Edmunds was the subject of scrutiny throughout the game, he did make some impressive plays. The Chargers line up in 21 personnel (two backs, one tight end), showing run and Edmunds does an excellent job reading his keys, using his long arms and rare strength to stack and shed the guard before helping make the stop for no gain.

Throughout the game, much of the discussion surrounding the Bills’ defense was targeted at Tremaine Edmunds’ struggles. And while the criticism is certainly valid, blame can be spread to just about any of the 11 defenders on the field that contributed to Buffalo giving up 75 points in their first six quarters of the 2018 NFL season. Perspective is important here, as just one week ago he became the youngest player to ever start an NFL game. In college, Edmunds was able to flat out dominate almost any player he faced simply due to physical ability, but in the NFL, he’ll have a larger learning curve as he develops and shoulders more responsibility. But for the young linebacker, age and lack of experience don’t matter – results do.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“You’ve just got to keep your head on straight, continue to learn every day and be honest with yourself,” he said. “You’re going to make some plays out there, but be honest with yourself on the plays that you could have made. Don’t make excuses for yourself. We’ve just got to learn from it, man. There’s going to be some struggles along the way, but it’s about how we respond to it.”[/perfectpullquote]

Edmunds has garnered some rave reviews from his teammates due to his maturity and raw talent. Kyle Williams, a longtime captain, went out of his way to deflect blame from the rookie, telling reporters that he has faith in the former Hokie.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“He’s going to be fine,” veteran defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. “I kind of put him in Josh’s category. The more he plays, the more snaps he gets, the better he’s going to get. He’s obviously a talented kid. He works hard and he wants to be good, which are important pieces of the puzzle that you don’t see in everybody, believe it or not. I’ve got a lot of faith in him. I know he’s going to get better. We all have to get better.”[/perfectpullquote]

Head coach Sean McDermott was asked about his level of concern after Edmunds fared so poorly in pass coverage, but he brushed the question off, calling him a ‘warrior.’

“He’s a young player. He battles. I mean, the guy’s a warrior. He plays hard, he plays every snap to the whistle and through the whistle. He’s going to be fine. He’s just got to continue to grow and get the experience that he needs at this point.”

Through two games, Tremaine Edmunds has 14 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble. He will undoubtedly have his bumps and bruises as he learns to play at the NFL level, but even with his miscues against the Chargers, he flashed the ability and raw physical talent that had scouts and analysts predicting him to win Rookie of the Year, while teammates believe he has All-Pro potential.

The game doesn’t seem too big for him and like fellow rookie Josh Allen, his toughness and leadership are already commanding the respect of teammates, so while they endure their rookie woes, lessons are being learned.