Ed­munds happy to em­brace lead­er­ship role

Sec­ond-year line­backer will turn 21 in two weeks

The Buffalo News - - SPORTS - By Jay Skurski

The sig­nif­i­cance was un­mis­tak­able.

On the first day of the Buf­falo Bills’ off­sea­son con­di­tion­ing pro­gram, two play­ers were cho­sen to ad­dress the as­sem­bled horde of West­ern New York me­dia mem­bers: Josh Allen and Tre­maine Ed­munds.

Last year’s first-round draft picks, Allen and Ed­munds are be­ing pushed into big­ger lead­er­ship roles in 2019. Yes, that comes with their re­spec­tive po­si­tions – quar­ter­back and mid­dle line­backer – but it also speaks to the trust Gen­eral Man­ager Bran­don Beane and coach Sean McDer­mott have in a pair of sec­ond-year play­ers.

“That says a lot in terms of where we were last year and where we are now,” McDer­mott said. “Still a lot of work to do, but to have these two young men come out and the way they carry them­selves, they rep­re­sent the Buf­falo Bills and that means a lot to not only my­self, but to our foot­ball team, to our or­ga­ni­za­tion, and hope­fully to the com­mu­nity.”

As the quar­ter­back and face of the fran­chise, it’s no sur­prise Allen ad­dressed the me­dia Mon­day. It’s clear the Bills want Ed­munds to fill that role for the de­fense. Last year, plenty was made of vet­eran de­fen­sive tackle Kyle Wil­liams turn­ing over con­trol of a play­ers-only meet­ing to Ed

munds late in the sea­son. It looked like a pass­ing of the torch, and ended up be­ing ex­actly that af­ter Wil­liams re­tired. While the Bills’ de­fense still has the lead­er­ship of line­backer Lorenzo Alexan­der to lean on, he’s en­ter­ing the fi­nal year of his ca­reer, too. That means Ed­munds will be counted on to shoul­der more of the re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“It means a lot to me,” he said. “Just know­ing that those guys trust me to come out here and speak to you guys means a lot. They showed a lot of lead­er­ship last year, so take those things, try to do it in my own way, learn from it and go for­ward from there.”

It’s easy to for­get that Ed­munds is still just 20 years old and will turn 21 May 2. That’s be­cause he car­ries him­self with a maturity rarely seen among not just play­ers, but peo­ple his age.

“It’s year two for me, so ob­vi­ously lead­er­ship is go­ing to pick up some,” he said. “Fo­cus­ing in on those points, tak­ing that next step in my game, build­ing the whole team – I’m ready for that chal­lenge. I’m ready for that next step. I’m ex­cited for it.”

While he might not act like it, there were times last sea­son Ed­munds’ play re­sem­bled that of a 20-year-old rookie. Whether it was be­ing caught out of po­si­tion or strug­gling to get off blocks, Ed­munds went through some grow­ing pains.

“I was young com­ing in and learn­ing a new sys­tem, so I have a year un­der my belt now,” he said. “So now, it’s about go­ing back and fine-tun­ing what I did last year and what we did as a team. Learn­ing from that, sit­ting down with the guys, get­ting more in depth with it now. Talk­ing more foot­ball, more sit­u­a­tional work since every­body now has a foun­da­tion.”

Ed­munds fin­ished his rookie sea­son start­ing 15 games (he missed one be­cause of a con­cus­sion) and mak­ing 121 tack­les, two sacks, 12 passes de­fensed, two in­ter­cep­tions and two forced fum­bles. He closed the sea­son on a strong note, be­ing named the AFC De­fen­sive Rookie of the Month for De­cem­ber, when he had 43 tack­les, one sack and two in­ter­cep­tions. The first of those, which came off the Jets’ Sam Darnold in Week 14, made Ed­munds the youngest player in NFL his­tory to make an in­ter­cep­tion.

He’s split his time this off­sea­son train­ing in Phoenix and At­lanta.

“I pretty much just have been get­ting stronger over­all, try­ing to get my speed a lit­tle bit faster,” Ed­munds said. “A lit­tle bit more mus­cle mass, things like that. I’ve been do­ing a lot of work with my broth­ers, as well. I’ve got one that plays run­ning back and an­other that plays safety. Pretty much com­mu­ni­cat­ing with each other, talk­ing about foot­ball, sit­u­a­tional stuff and pick­ing each other’s brains.”

Un­like the of­fense, which could have as many as seven or eight new starters in 2019, the Bills’ de­fense re­turns nearly in­tact, with the re­tire­ment of Wil­liams serv­ing as the only de­par­ture among the pro­jected starters.

“I’m ex­cited. It’s a new year, and you’ve got to prove your­self every year in this league,” Ed­munds said. “We brought guys along, and we have to build that trust with each other. … It’s go­ing to take some time spend­ing time to­gether to re­ally click. I mean, I’m ex­cited and I know the whole team is ex­cited. We’re all ready to get to work.”

Mark Mul­ville/Buf­falo News

Tre­maine Ed­munds speaks with reporters in Or­chard Park Mon­day.

James P. McCoy/Buf­falo News

Tre­maine Ed­munds sacks Mi­ami’s Ryan Tan­nehill in the fourth quar­ter of the 2018 sea­son fi­nale.

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