ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – With the way the Bills defense has been playing so far this season, especially the past two games, many players have stood out and linebacker Matt Milano is at the top of that list.
Against Washington last week, he had six tackles, two for loss including that fourth down stop on Taylor Heinicke, plus a pass breakup and a fumble recovery. He’s been all over the field and during that 43-21 win was yet another example.
And even defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier notices a difference in Milano’s game so far in his fifth season.
“Matt seems to be playing with so much more confidence, you can see it in his urgency with the way he’s practicing, the way he’s playing, he’s much more vocal than he’s ever been,” Frazier said.
“There’s just a whole other level to his play and these first three games, you know he’s been a good player for us all along which is one of the reasons he was re-signed to a good contract but he’s taken his game to another level from an intensity standpoint and it’s really become infectious with the rest of our players so just love the energy that he’s bringing and the fieriness that he’s playing with and hopefully that will continue.”
It was obvious how important Milano is to this Bills defense even before he signed that four-year contract extension but now he’s proving even more why it was critical for Brandon Beane to get that deal done to keep him in Buffalo.
“I’m just feeling really good out there health wise, my mind’s right, I’m playing fast, everybody around me is playing fast as well,” Milano said Thursday after practice.
While Milano says he isn’t necessarily taking a different approach to this season, there is one aspect of his game that Frazier said has changed and that’s speaking up more which is something they’ve been trying to get out of him over the years.
“We put a lot on Tremaine Edmunds’ plate to communicate to the entire defense and there are times when you’re in a loud stadium like it can be in our stadium when you’re on defense and the opposing offense is on the field, you need another voice to echo some of Tremaine’s commands,” Frazier said.
When talking to Milano, he can come across as a soft spoken guy but on the field being vocal is something that’s very important to the defense.
“Yeah it’s definitely on my mind a little bit more just trying to take that next step in my game, just looking to improve, it helps me out and it helps the team out as well,” Milano said.
“In years past that hasn’t been Matt’s deal, you know we’re trying to get him to get there and we’ve gotten that from Jordan, we’ve gotten it from Micah because they have to help the rest of the secondary and we’ve been urging Matt to help Tremaine with that with our defensive line because we don’t want our defensive line turning to look and find out what defense we’re gonna be playing when it’s loud. So to see Matt now verbally communicate and really echo what some of Tremaine’s commands are it’s making us a better defense and it’s making him a better player because it forces him to lock in on every little detail and it’s something he’s embraced,” Frazier explained.
Another thing that’s going well for Milano so far in 2021 is being healthy. Throughout his career he’s dealt with a number of injuries and staying on the field has, at times, been an issue. In 2017 he missed the Wild Game against Jacksonville with a hamstring injury. In 2018 his season was cut short after suffering a broken fibula in week 14. Then last year he dealt with both a hamstring injury and a lingering pectoral injury.
But now it seems like that’s behind him as he’s finally back to full strength.
“Yeah it feels great, just trying to keep it going the rest of the season.”