Edmunds happy to embrace leadership role
Second-year linebacker will turn 21 in two weeks
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.”
Tremaine Edmunds speaks with reporters in Orchard Park Monday.
Tremaine Edmunds sacks Miami’s Ryan Tannehill in the fourth quarter of the 2018 season finale.