The Buffalo Bills pass rush was clearly the achilleas heal of the defense in 2018. Despite the Bills posting the best pass defense in the NFL a season ago allowing only 179.2 yards per game, but Buffalo only recorded 36.0 sacks, ranking just 26thin the NFL. There was no question that over the offseason the Bills had to fill this glaring hole, as the only consistent pass rush the Bills got came from Jerry Hughes.
To address this, they brought in guys like Eli Harold and resigned Jordan Phillips. However, the biggest addition to the Bills pass rush happened on draft night. Ed Oliver was considered a steal for Buffalo and it’s easy to see why. Oliver is an undersized but supremely athletic defensive tackle with great movement ability and explosion, similar to the likes of Aaron Donald and John Randle. The thought of both Hughes and Oliver together on the defensive line should excite Bills fans, because here is why these two will form a dynamic pass rush duo.
Like I mentioned earlier, the only consistent pass rush for the Bills came from Jerry Hughes, who’s play style is very similar to Ed Oliver. Like Oliver, Hughes tends to win with explosion and athleticism. Hughes is a classic bend-around-the-edge player who likes to beat opposing linemen with his burst. Having an athletic pass rusher on the outside and the inside could be a real asset for the Bills defense. Having these two players could mean a lot of stunts and exotic blitz packages. Simply put, the Bills have athletes that they can get really creative with.
Another reason why these two players could form a dynamic duo is from a trend that has formed for the Bills over the last two seasons. Constantly, Hughes would come around the edge and put pressure on the quarterback. However, there would never be any pressure coming from the interior defensive line. Meaning, opposing quarterbacks could easily just step up in the pocket. Ed Oliver should be able to feast on this. Having both Hughes and Oliver penetrating the line from the outside and inside will leave nowhere for quarterbacks to go. It’s either step up in the pocket and get pressured by Oliver, or it’s try to beat Hughes to the edge.
The last reason why Oliver and Hughes could be dangerous together is because they’ll force opposing offenses to make a choice. Who do you pay more attention to? Do you try to chip/double Hughes or Oliver? Having two playmakers on the defensive line will not only free up each other, but also free up guys like Trent Murphy or Shaq Lawson. There’s a reason why offensive coordinators stay up late at night coming up with ways to shut down the defense’s best players. By having two on the defensive line, this could truly be a nightmare for opposing teams.
Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott knew that the missing piece to their elite defense was a relentless pass rush. By using their first-round selection on disruptive interior defender Ed Oliver, the Bills have hopefully accomplished that. With Oliver up the middle and Hughes around the edge, the Bills may have formed one of the best pass rush duos in the NFL. So, good luck to Tom Brady, Sam Darnold, and any other quarterback the Bills will face this season.
Mitch Broder in a contributor for The Buffalo Fanatics. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him @mitchell_broder