Frazier: Bills defense can’t bank on familiarity

Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier joined Howard and Jeremy at training camp on Monday

Howard & Jeremy | Weekdays 6a-10a
August 05, 2019 - 10:26 am

Photo: Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports

The end of Buffalo Bills training camp is rapidly approaching as the team gets ready for its first preseason game on Thursday against the Indianapolis Colts at New Era Field.

After nearly two grueling weeks of training camp at St. John Fisher College, players and coaches will finally get a chance to go up against someone other than themselves.

It will be the first time that fans get to see some of the competitions on the roster pan out like the competition on the offensive line, as well the starting cornerback role opposite of Tre’Davious White. Fans will also get to see rookies like defensive tackle Ed Oliver and tackle Cody Ford under the lights for the first time.

The man who oversees the competition for the second cornerback spot, Oliver, and the rest Bills defense is defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who’s heading into his third season with the team.

Frazier joined Howard Simon and Jeremy White before practice on Tuesday to talk about the progress of his defensive group heading into the 2019 season. 

The Bills are projected to return 10 of the 11 starters on defense from last season, which helps with the continuity on defense as well as the familiarity of the system. However, Frazier says that it’s not something the Bills can bank on all the time. 

“When you talk and talk about certain things in a defense, those guys are able to finish your sentences at this point," Frazier said. "Guys like Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, and even to see Tremaine [Edmunds] a year later after his rookie season, he’s developed so much and grown so much. So it definitely helps, but there is so many variables in our game that you really can’t rely on the fact that you’ve been together. You’ve got to keep working as hard as you can to get better, because your opponents are working hard to get better as well.”

The only player from last year's defensive group that is not going to be back with the Bills in 2019 is defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who retired following a 13-year career with in Buffalo. That has created a competition for that open roster spot next to defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.

The one player that has been making some noise for that spot, especially as of late, is Oliver, who has gotten reps with the first-team defense over the past few practices over Jordan Phillips. Frazier says that Oliver has earned his reps with the first team unit after being selected with the ninth overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. 

“We were looking for some of the things we saw in him in college,” Frazier said. “We were beginning to see some of that explosiveness that we had seen, and his ability to use his power along with that explosion. Early on he was kind of like feeling his way, especially when he got double teamed. He’d end up out of his gap and really not quite know how to handle that. As time as gone on he’s gotten more confident in our system. With the techniques that we’re teaching, you can begin to see that the things that we saw in college are beginning to show up.”

With Williams stepping away from football, it not only left a hole on the defensive line, but also a hole in the leadership group. One player who is expected to take on a bigger role on the defense this season is second-year middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.

Frazier further elaborated on Edmunds’ growth heading into his second season, and how he’s shown his development as a leader of the defense. 

“He’s playing with so much more confidence, he’s playing faster, and he’s making quicker decisions,” Frazier said. “When he talks, now he talks with more of a command, so he’s not hesitant. The guys want to follow him….For a 20-year-old guy, which he was in his rookie year, to come in and take that type of command, that’s asking a lot. A year later, you can see it, when he talks everyone listens.”

Edmunds is steadily taking command of a defense that includes safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, who like Frazier, are entering their third season in Buffalo. Frazier raved about having Hyde and Poyer on the back end of the defense. 

“Arguably, they are the best tandem in the league,” Frazier said. “They give us so much. They deter offenses from wanting to take shots down the field on our defense. One of the reasons we’ve been a top five defense and not given up explosive plays is because of those two guys….Their leadership, their ability to command the secondary and disguise – make people think we’re playing one thing when we’re playing another – they do a great job.”

A player who is also a part of the Bills secondary with Poyer and Hyde is second year cornerback Levi Wallace. Wallace is in the midst of competition for the starting cornerback job with the newly singed cornerbacks Kevin Johnson and E.J. Gaines. Frazier liked the job Wallace did last year, and is working hard to reclaim the starting role opposite of third year cornerback Tre’Davious White.

“He had a lot to do with our [defense] being able to finish strong down the stretch,” Frazier said. “He’s kind of picked up where he left off. The game’s not too big for him. Being an undrafted free agent having to start in the National Football League, people are going to go after you just because of the fact you were undrafted….but he stood up to the task. He’s doing the same thing in this training camp. We’ve got some guys coming at him hard.”

You can listen to the entire interview below:

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