Bills' Ed Oliver may be even more menacing with Von Miller by his side

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The last time Ed Oliver was at St. John Fisher University, he was a wide-eyed Buffalo Bills rookie in 2019, and there’s no way that he would have been zipping around on campus with a scooter.

But now that training camp has returned to Pittsford and Oliver is heading into his fourth NFL season, he was perfectly comfortable heading over to Best Buy to buy a scooter after seeing veteran DaQuan Jones tooling around on one.

“DaQuan showed up with a scooter and I was like, ‘You know what, I need a scooter.’ So I just went and got one,” Oliver said with his infectious smile swept across his face.

A new mode of transportation to get to and from his dorm room to meetings, practice, or meals isn’t the only reason Oliver is smiling this summer.

First and foremost, he’s coming off a breakthrough 2021 season when he truly began living up to his No. 9 overall first-round draft status from 2019. But also, the Bills have made key upgrades on their defensive line, none more than significant than edge rusher Von Miller, and that should only enhance Oliver’s ascension as one of the best three-technique DTs in the NFL.

Ed Oliver can't wait to see how much havoc he and Von Miller can create up front for the Bills defense this season.
Ed Oliver can't wait to see how much havoc he and Von Miller can create up front for the Bills defense this season.

“He continues to get better every year,” coach Sean McDermott said of Oliver. “His attention to detail, his approach year-round, I’ve seen that grow which is natural for a player in their developing years, years 2-3-4 in particular. I’ve seen him come into camp in shape and with a hungry attitude and approach on a daily basis.”

Oliver would be the first to admit that his rookie season was rather mundane, and then in 2020 his numbers actually took a dip (10 fewer tackles, 2 fewer sacks) and there was a groundswell of murmuring that perhaps the Bills missed on picking Oliver so high.

“Early on, he was relying so much on his physical ability, trying to out-power people; ‘I’m stronger than you, I’m tougher than you,’” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. “But I think he learned over time at this level, the neck up matters.”

More:Jordan Poyer was clearly in pain when he left the Buffalo Bills practice field

More:Bills rookie Kaiir Elam learning with first team reps, epic camp matchups with Stefon Diggs

Truer words have never been spoken as they pertain to NFL defensive line play, because it’s not always just about sacking the quarterback, or blowing up a running play in the backfield.

“Being able to understand situational football - it’s first-and-10 versus third-and-1, things are going to be a little bit different,” Frazier said. “So that’s where I’ve seen the greatest growth and I attribute a lot of that to Eric Washington, his (line) coach. That was something we talked about over last offseason, that was an area we wanted to see him grow, just understanding the game and boy, his game took off last season so we’re looking forward to more of that in 2022.”

Rankings show Ed Oliver's improvement

According to Pro Football Focus, last season against the run, among 82 tackles who played at least 50% of his team’s regular-season run snaps, Oliver’s stop percentage (plays where he was primarily responsible for the stop) of 11.2 ranked fourth. Aaron Donald of the Rams was 18th in this category at 9.5%, though he did play 159 more run snaps.

And among 49 tackles who played at least 50% of his team’s pass rush snaps, Oliver was 18th with 40 pressures. Now, that’s a far cry from Donald who led all tackles with a whopping 86 pressures, 19 more than No. 2 Jonathan Allen of the Commanders. But comparing Oliver to Donald, who is one of the best defensive players in the history of the NFL, is a bit unfair.

Here’s something to consider, though: Of Donald’s 86 pressures, 45 of them, as well as the 23 he piled up in four playoff games, came after Miller arrived in Los Angeles from Denver in a trade.

Miller impacts everything up front, even for a great player like Donald, and now Oliver will be the beneficiary of the attention Miller is sure to draw this season from opposing offensive lines.

“I think it’s gonna be good, not only for me but for the defense as a whole,” Oliver said. “He’s a big-time player and they’re gonna key in on him, and probably take some of the attention off me. That’s gonna help me out a lot.”

Center Mitch Morse joked the other day - actually, it may not have been a joke - that, “If you ever put (Miller) on the same side as Ed, it’s almost a little bit of cheating because it’s two guys who are not only gifted but love football and play it exceptionally well.”

Oliver agreed with that, saying, “I’d say so. It’s cheating when we’re on the same side, it’s definitely a win, but I think when we’re on opposite sides from each other it’s even better. When we’re on opposite sides, which one do you take care of? So either way is fine with me.”

Frazier has so many weapons at his disposal on the line this season with the additions of Miller, edge rusher Shaq Lawson, and tackles Jones, Tim Settle and Jordan Phillips, plus the return of Oliver, Greg Rousseau, Boogie Basham and A.J. Epenesa.

The mix-and-match combinations will have offensive linemen scrambling to figure out who’s where and how should the pass protections and run blocking schemes be deployed.

But when he starts thinking about Oliver and Miller and the havoc they could wreak, Frazier breaks into a wide smile.

“They both have tremendous skill sets, they give offensive lines trouble, at least we expect that to happen,” he said. “And when Ed and Von are paired together, depending on the matchups, you hope that’s going to be a favorable matchup for us and you expect Von to draw a ton of attention which could allow Ed to have more one-on-ones than we would ordinarily see.”

Last week, Miller was asked to assess Oliver, and he raised some pretty big names in his comp.

“Ed Oliver is a great player,” he said. “I’ve always had a three-technique on the inside of me my whole career, whether it’s Derek Wolfe (in Denver) or Aaron Donald, or here with Ed Oliver. I’ve always had help on the inside and I think it’ll be great to have Ed Oliver and Jordan Phillips and DaQuan Jones on the inside helping me. I’m excited about this group.”

Oliver’s thoughts on what Miller had to say? Another big smile before he hopped on his scooter and zipped off to lunch.

“I mean that feels good to have a guy that caliber who’s been in the league and has so many stripes to be like, ‘Yeah, I got some help,’” Oliver said. “You know what I’m saying, embrace me. You got Von happy to play with you, excited to play with you, excited to have you side by side going to war with you. That just means a lot to me and just helped me as far as confidence wise and knowing that I can count on him and he can count on me.”

Sal Maiorana can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.To subscribe to Sal's new twice-a-week newsletter, Bills Blast, please follow this link:

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Bills camp news: Ed Oliver could have breakout year with Von Miller