ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – When looking at the roster during Bills training camp and preseason, there weren’t many starting jobs up for grabs so when evaluating practices and games, it was more about competition for back up spots and what players could take their game to the next level.
Defensive tackle Ed Oliver is one of those players expected to make a jump from year two to year three. That was a big topic this summer is how can he make more of an impact in this Bills defense in 2021. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier says he already sees that progress.
“He’s definitely matured as a player, you can see his growth, we’re all watching his maturation, it’s been a process and it’s been really good. You can see him really ascending as a player,” Frazier said before practice on Wednesday.
Frazier also pointed out another big difference for Oliver was having an entire offseason to work with defensive line coach Eric Washington after having to deal with everything virtual last spring when he was first hired.
“New position coach, new way of doing things and you’re kind of learning on the run as the season goes on so yes, we’ve seen tremendous growth throughout the entire offseason. He’s had a really good training camp, good preseason and expecting him to have a really good season as well,” Frazier explained.
The Bills drafted Oliver with the 9th overall pick in 2019 so naturally there are always going to be high expectations of a player drafted that high. And it’s not just Oliver, there’s other guys on this defense that need to make more of those splash plays but Oliver looks like he’s in a good position to do just that.
“One of the things we really challenged him to be able to do is to consistently make those big plays for us up front, using his ability to get off of blocks, chase the ball down like he does and just to be consistently good at doing that and he’s done it. He’s taken it upon himself,” Frazier explained.
“He has a strong desire to be good and he wants to be good and when you have talent and you have the work ethic and then you have that mindset you have a chance to really become a really good player and he’s on his way to doing that.”
And consistency is the key word there. Oliver has shown flashes of being that dynamic, game-changing player, just look at the second half of his rookie season. In 2019 he ended with 43 tackles, 5 sacks and eight quarterback hits. But last year he took a step back statistically with 33 tackles, 3 sacks and six QB hits.
We all know numbers aren’t everything and one of the contributing factors in Oliver taking a step back in that area is the absence of fellow defensive tackle Star Lotulelei who opted out of 2020 because of the pandemic. It’s not the only reason but having him back will definitely open things up for Oliver, free him up to rush the passer more than what we saw last year after dealing with more double teams without Lotulelei.
Even Frazier thinks this could be Oliver’s breakout season and the Bills revamped pass rush is counting on it.
“He has a chance to I think really open some eyes around the league this season and looking forward to him having a bust out season. That would be really good for our defense, he’s been consistently good but there’s a chance he could go to another level and this would be the ideal year for that to happen.”