Oliver not getting the long leash received by Lotulelei

Should Ed Oliver be the defensive tackle to see backup snaps?

Louie DiBiase
November 07, 2019 - 2:20 am

The Buffalo Bills are making a change at defensive tackle with Jordan Phillips replacing 2019 first round selection Ed Oliver as a starter on the interior of the defensive line. A change inside started to come to fruition this past Sunday against the Washington Redskins when Oliver saw just 18 defensive snaps. 

The rookie hasn't wowed anyone with his play through eight games, but is he the right player to be reduced to a backup role?

It appears his top-pick status doesn't give him the leash an expensive contract has given fellow defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. 

Part of the reason for a change likely is the struggles of the run defense over the last two weeks. The Philadelphia Eagles and the Redskins ran for a combined 345 yards the last two weeks against Buffalo. 

While Lotulelei's traditional role is that of a space eating, gap containing tackle that's strength is against the run, the veteran has struggled to play at a high level in that role either. As of last week, Lotulelei had the second-lowest tackling grade of any interior defensive lineman in the NFL at 24.4, according to Pro Football Focus. He has missed five tackles, while being credited with just six total tackles. 

To say Oliver was undeserving of losing playing time to Phillips wouldn't be fair, but has Lotulelei done enough to be the player that keeps his job inside? 

One has to wonder if the veteran didn't have an average of $10 million as a salary cap annually, with no real out until 2021, would he continue to keep his current role? 

It hasn't been just the last few games. Of 112 graded defensive tackles in 2018, Lotulelei graded out tied for 100th. 

He hasn't played anywhere close to the value of his contract. 

The Bills also added a veteran tackle that has a lot of starting experience in Corey Liuget, which will make the new rotation interesting to watch. 

Time will tell if scaling back Oliver's snaps will help his development, but having an expensive, inefficient contract taking important reps away from the rookie could be a mistake. 

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