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Buffalo Bills Linebacker analysis prior to training camp

After an outstanding offensive season from the Buffalo Bills, the defense still had some shortcomings throughout the last year. Outside of a couple of solid defensive performances against the Jets, the Bills didn’t have many good games on that side of the ball during the first half of the season. As the year progressed, the defense certainly improved.

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After an outstanding offensive season from the Buffalo Bills, the defense still had some shortcomings throughout the last year. Outside of a couple of solid defensive performances against the Jets, the Bills didn’t have many good games on that side of the ball during the first half of the season. As the year progressed, the defense certainly improved.

A lot of the early shortcomings on the defensive side of the ball can be linked to the wavering health from the Linebacker position. In week one against the Jets, both Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds suffered injuries. Milano dealt with a low leg injury and then suffered a chest injury later on in the season. On the other hand, Edmunds dealt with and played through a nagging shoulder injury. Regardless, neither player was the best form of themself through the early half of last season. Brandon Beane and the Buffalo Bills addressed this issue head-on this offseason by acquiring depth at the linebacker position.

Buffalo Bills Free Agent Additions

Although the Buffalo Bills like to play a lot of nickel defense, Linebacker depth is still important. Prior to the draft, the Bills acquired Marquel Lee and Tyrell Adams in free agency. Both Lee and Adams are under 30 years old, and both only have one reputable season on their respective resumes.

Lee was drafted in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the then Oakland Raiders. Since then, he has played all three years but got the most opportunities in 2019. He started 10 of the 16 regular-season games and tallied 68 combined tackles with three TFLs.

Adams on the other hand is much closer to 30 than Lee. He went undrafted in the 2015 NFL Draft but found an opportunity with the Seattle Seahawks. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t make the final roster. It wasn’t until the 2016 season that he found himself on an active roster. Coincidentally, it was the Oakland Raiders that gave him a chance. With that being said, his best season to this point in his career was just last year. Adams started 12 games for the Houston Texans and tallied 125 combined tackles with five TFLs and two forced fumbles.

Additional Depth

The Buffalo Bills went through the 2021 NFL Draft without drafting a linebacker or signing one as an undrafted free agent. However, shortly after the draft, the Bills signed Joe Giles-Harris. Giles-Harris went undrafted in 2019 and hasn’t really gotten much playing time to this point in his career. In 2020, he started in just three games for Jacksonville and recorded a total of 20 combined tackles with two TFLs and one sack.

In addition to the players the Bills added to the roster, they also retained a few guys. For instance, the Buffalo Bills resigned Andre Smith this offseason. Smith didn’t get much run on defense, but he did contribute a ton on special teams. On a similar note, the Bills made sure to keep another special teamer in town by restructuring the contract of Tyler Matakevich.

Lastly, the Buffalo Bills still have Tyrel Dodson, an undrafted free agent signing from 2019. Dodson is someone that I really like as depth within the linebacker group and he’s only about to turn 23. When Edmunds was too injured to play in the week two game against the Dolphins last year, Dodson was the next man up. Not only was her the next man up but I actually thought he played quite well.

Who Makes the Buffalo Bills Final Cut at Linebacker?

Since the arrival of Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott, the Buffalo Bills have kept six linebackers on the final roster every year. Although there’s a chance that this number gets cut down to five for this year, I will run on the assumption that the Bills will keep six.

I think we can all agree that Milano and Edmunds are locks. Although some of us had some gripes with A.J. Klein’s play last year, he improved as the year progressed. Additionally, he has a dead cap figure of $5.6 million for 2021 which makes him almost a sure thing. I shared how I feel about Dodson and ultimately think that he will make the final cut.

This leaves two spots left up for grabs. I think the final two spots come down to Matakevich, Adams, and Smith. With that said, I’ll boil that down even further. Based on Adams’ production last year, I think he will be a quality depth piece that makes this team and can contribute to special teams. However, the last spot has to go to a linebacker that will make their mark with elite special teams play. Both Matakevich and Smith did well on special teams last year. One had their contract restructured and the other got resigned. If I had to pick now I would pick Matakevich, but it really could go either way.

Air Raid Hour Recap

If you enjoyed my breakdown of the Buffalo Bills Linebacker group, then the most recent episode of the Air Raid Hour is right up your alley. They begin with a conversation about Tremaine Edmunds, then transition into narratives surrounding Tyrell Adams and A.J. Klein.

Beyond just talking about Linebackers, Judge and Tilt brought on special guest, Lawrence Owen from Colts Law, to partake in the preview for the Bills matchup against the Colts this regular season. Lawrence gives his honest opinions on any and all questions pertaining to the Bills and Colts during the show. The replay to this episode of the Air Raid Hour is embedded above.

As always, go Bills!