Tucked away in Buffalo, there's an emerging defensive star, who by all accounts is standing out in skill, play and character.
Aspirations are lofty and talent is abundant for the Bills.
Nonetheless, over the past two seasons they've lost defensive leaders Lorenzo Alexander and Kyle Williams.
Looking for new leaders to emerge – even while the COVID-19 pandemic has subjected teams to a virtual offseason – defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier believes youth and experience hasn't held middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds back from stepping up.
"Well the first guy that comes to mind is just seeing Tremaine's development in this offseason," Frazier told reporters Thursday when asked who he's seen step up to replace the lost leadership -- via team transcript. "This virtual offseason. Just the way he has been kind of bringing players together and talking with them, calling them, reaching out to them, going past his own position, the linebackers position. And the same thing with Jordan Poyer, the same thing with Jerry Hughes, reaching out to teammates to try to develop that unity that we're missing right now because we're not around one another. Those guys really come to mind, guys that are reaching out across their position lines, trying to help the young guys as well as the veterans to stay connected."
Edmunds is still a young guy, himself. Having just turned 22 at the onset of May, Edmunds has as many years of NFL service as he has brothers in the league – two. Edmunds, whose older brothers Trey, 25, and Terrell, 23, each play for the Steelers, is heading toward his third campaign with Buffalo. He's coming off a sensational year in which he posted 115 tackles (his second 110-plus-tackle season in as many years) and nine passes defended.
While a new wave of talent has pushed the Bills into becoming an AFC East frontrunner, they have lost the veteran guidance and character of the aforementioned Alexander and Williams over each of the last two campaigns. Williams spent the entirety of his 13-year career in Buffalo and was very much the heart and soul of the squad while finding his way to six Pro Bowls and Alexander, who retired after last season, played his final four falls in Buffalo and is still a member of the NFL Players Association.
Now, from Frazier's viewpoint, Edmunds is emerging not just as a star in the league, but a principal figure in the locker room.
In more ways than one, Edmunds has already established himself as a standout in the league and a focal point of the Bills defense.
It's certainly not lost on Frazier how impressive and special Edmunds has been in just a short time and how phenomenal the backer's future may well be.
"When you look at the fact that he's just going to third season and just turning 22, so young, so much promise ahead of him, and he's achieved so much already," Frazier said. "I mean, to already be recognized as one of our leaders on our team and on our defense. We're very, very fortunate to have him. He's the epitome of what you would want one of your star players to be, one of your leaders to be. A guy you don't have to worry about late at night. You know he's going to be where he's supposed to be, you know he's going to do what he's supposed to do when it comes to football. We're just very, very fortunate to have him as a star player for the Buffalo Bills for sure."