Alexander: 'We have to reset and earn the right to win'

Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander joined Howard and Jeremy at training camp on Wednesday

Howard & Jeremy | Weekdays 6a-10a
July 31, 2019 - 7:42 am

Photo: Mark Konezny - USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills have been in action for nearly a full week at training camp from St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, New York.

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A lot of the attention at camp has been directed towards the offense under the direction of second-year quarterback Josh Allen. The talk has also been directed towards the play of new players like wide receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley, as well as running back Frank Gore.

Not a lot of attention has been focused on the Buffalo defense, which finished as the second-ranked unit in the NFL last season. However, a majority of pieces on that side of the football are returning for the 2019 season with the exception of defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who retired after a 13-year career in Buffalo.

Fans may be paying attention to rookie defensive tackle Ed Oliver to see if he can crack the starting lineup this season. The ninth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft is in competition with players like Jordan Phillips and Harrison Phillips to earn a starting job next to Star Lotulelei on the defensive line.

As for the linebacker group, all three starters are expected to be on the field for Week 1 of the season when the Bills travel to New Jersey to take on the New York Jets. Matt Milano has been on the field and taking first team reps on a regular basis after breaking his leg late last season. Tremaine Edmunds is expected to take a leap in his second season with the Buffalo defense, while Lorenzo Alexander becomes the looked-to veteran on defense now with Williams stepping away from the game.

Alexander took the time early Wednesday morning to join Howard Simon and Jeremy White on WGR at Bills training camp, and said that even though the Bills defense has a good reputation from last season, he emphasized that they can’t rest on their laurels.  

“I think one thing we have to do is… we have to reset and earn the right to win, and be great again on defense," Alexander said. “We can’t just translate what we did last year, even though we have 10 or 11 starters coming back…if you have that mindset you could easily fall off and figure out 'man, we were expecting the defense [to do well]. The offense is doing well, why isn’t the defense doing [it] right?''

The 36-year-old is embarking on his fourth season in Buffalo after finishing the 2018 season with 74 combined tackles and 6.5 sacks, second only to Jerry Hughes’ seven sacks last season.

Before Alexander signed with the Bills before the 2016 season, he spent a season with the Oakland Raiders, two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals and six seasons with the Washington Redskins, where he made his NFL debut.

Every day at training camp, Alexander has lined up alongside Edmunds, who was Buffalo 16th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. As the second-year linebacker is looking to flourish heading into his second season, Alexander has already seen growth out of the 21-year-old in training camp.

“We are going to be better just off of him alone because he’s so much more confident this year,” Edmunds said of the Bills middle linebacker. “His skill set is going to shoot out the roof even more so [than his rookie season].”

Alexander said that part of the reason Edmunds has developed so much as a player, and as a leader, is because he doesn’t have a big ego in addition to a great work ethic.

“He’s very humble,” Alexander said. “He puts his teammates first. He’s working out there too, he’s grinding. When you see a guy trying to learn and trying to get right, it’s easier to fall in line. Last year, he was willing to follow me and Kyle, so when you see a guy that’s being submissive and wants to be great and wants to do good - once it his time to take over and have that transition, it’s easier [to say] ‘I’ll back up, I know where you heart and mind is, and I’ll support whatever you have to do and be a supplemental figure.”

Another young player that’s looking to grow and make a mark at training camp this season is rookie defensive tackle Ed Oliver. Alexander talked about what he’s seen from Oliver so far.

“I really like the way he gets off the ball, [he] has a great knack for being a pass rusher,” Alexander said. “Obviously being a smaller guy, he’s going to have to continue to work on playing with the team. I think being on our team, with the offensive line that we brought in, is going to really help speed that process up... Now instead of playing in the Conference USA, where he just was flat out better than everybody because of who he is and his talent level, now you have bigger bodies and people that have a better skill level.”

As for Williams, he paid a visit to St. John Fisher College on Tuesday to help coach the defensive line amongst other things. Alexander said having him at training camp was critical for Oliver’s development.

“Kyle wasn’t a big bodied type of guy,” Alexander said. “So to help him understand [things] like ‘maybe you want to think about playing like this, playing with your hands or where your pressure is, who you want to put your hands on and how you want to feel certain blocks,' so having that wisdom out here I think is going to help Ed develop even quicker.”

Bills training camp continues on Wednesday with practice set for 9:45 a.m. It is free and open to the public.

You can listen to the entire interview below:

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