Baldinger: The Bills can be 'a top-10 defense' this year

August 14, 2019 - 10:21 am

The 2019 NFL regular season is inching closer by the minute, and the Buffalo Bills are hoping that 2019 is a breakout year for their group.

The Bills already have one preseason game under their belt with a 24-16 win over the Indianapolis Colts at New Era Field this past Thursday night. The team is currently taking part in joint practices with the Carolina Panthers in Spartanburg, South Carolina before both teams square off in their second preseason game on Friday night at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

So far through training camp and the preseason, a lot of the focus has been on the progression of second-year quarterback Josh Allen and how he will perform in another year under offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

Allen played in a two series for the Bills against the Colts, going 6-of-11 for 66 yards in his limited action. The overall offense looked alright in the short amount of time they saw on the field, but the true test will come over the next couple of preseason games in Carolina, as well as against the Detroit Lions next Friday.

Little focus has been put on the Buffalo defense this preseason, however they are coming off a season where they ended up as a top-10 ranked defense in the NFL. The overall unit is expected to have 10 of the 11 starters back on the field for the 2019 season with the exception of defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who retired after a 13-year career with the Bills.

Bills head coach Sean McDermott is heading into his third season at the helm in Buffalo. He helped guide the team to a Wild Card berth in 2017, and has helped run the defense that finished second in points allowed last season along with defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.

RADIO.COM Sports NFL insider Brian Baldinger joined the Howard and Jeremy Show on Wednesday, and he believes that McDermott's defense can be just as good as last year's unit that was one of the best groups in the NFL.

"The one thing I would say under Sean McDermott is that they play better than the sum of the parts, meaning they really play as a team," Baldinger said with Jeremy White on WGR. "That's the coach's dream. I think they can be a top-10 defense at the end of the year. I think they do a lot of things really, really well."

With Williams retiring and moving on to his life after football, the Bills were able to draft a potential replacement for him on the defensive line with Ed Oliver.

The ninth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft has already made his mark on the team this training camp and preseason, and has recently earned consistent reps with the first-team defense next to Star Lotulelei.

Oliver was one player who stood out to Baldinger in Thursday's bout against the Colts, and recently featured Oliver on his Twitter series "#BaldysBreakdowns", where he analyzes the film of various players from across the NFL:

After watching Oliver go up against Pro Bowl guard Quenton Nelson on Thursday, Baldinger said that Oliver has the potential to make an impact on the defensive line for the Bills this season.

"I think he's in a good spot," Baldinger said. "I think he's the three-technique there in this Buffalo Bills defensive line, or at least the right defensive tackle. He went up against the best offensive lineman in all of football this weekend in Quenton Nelson. It was a battle. He didn't lose every single play, but he saw the very best in the whole business, and I thought he handled himself just well."

Given that Baldinger sees Oliver as a solidified part of the Bills defense heading into the 2019 season, he said that the Bills could potentially get creative with Oliver in where he lines up on the defensive line, given his elite athletic abilities as a pass rusher.

"I think Ed Oliver can play any position on the [defensive line>," Baldinger said. "He can play nose tackle, but I think he's a better defensive tackle. I think he can play end, I think you can stand him up and move him around. I think you're going to see some flexibility because of his extreme quickness that he has, and that's his calling card. He's about as quick a guy inside as there is in the NFL."

The player who will line up behind Oliver is second-year middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. Last season, he led the team with 121 combined tackles and was tied for second on the team with two forced fumbles. Baldinger praised his abilities as a linebacker, and brought up a trait to Edmunds' game that not many people talk about: his ability to deflect passes.

"He's got a presence inside that not many middle linebackers in this league have," Baldinger said. "Tremaine can really cover any tight end down the seam. It was a problem for quarterbacks to throw it over his head in the middle of the field. He led the team in passes defended with 17....I think he's only going to get better....I think the future is really bright with him and Matt Milano behind a rebuilt and better defensive line."

Baldinger also broke down some of Allen's performance in last Thursday's game against Indianapolis:

Baldinger said he liked what he saw from Allen in his rookie year, but there are parts of Allen's game that need to improve.

"I thought he was fine," Baldinger said. "He's an elite athlete, nobody in Miami could tackle him. Their linebackers had their tongues dragging on the ground in both games. He is Carson Wentz, but athletically probably better. Carson doesn't run like that or doesn't run as frequently. You don't want to see him run as much, you don't want have to see him be the second leading rusher on the team this year. You'd like to see him stay there and be a little more patient, to be able to make the throws.

You can listen to the entire interview below:

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