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Ed Oliver's play stands out on Bills defensive line full of 'monsters'


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Rookie cornerback Kaiir Elam is pretty set on how to describe the Buffalo Bills' defensive line.

“They’re monsters. They're monsters. Yeah, they’re freaks,” Elam said. “Our first string, second string, third string, they just come rolling in, and they’re just monsters.”

On Monday, it was Ed Oliver who had a monstrous day, the latest in a strong camp for the fourth-year defense tackle.

“I think he’s off to a really good start this camp,” coach Sean McDermott said ahead of practice.

Throughout the long, hot practice, Oliver made play after play. It’s early in camp, and the Bills are without the starting offensive line, but Oliver’s intensity has been notable. A hurry on first down led to an incompletion. He beat Greg Van Roten for what likely would have been one sack and beat Bobby Hart for another. Toward the end of practice, he had a hurry to force an overthrow that found its way into linebacker Tremaine Edmunds’ hands.

Oliver was down briefly for a moment after, but said he was all good shortly after when meeting with the media. His camp in general has been strong, and it follows some of his best football at the end of last season.

“Just feeling comfortable,” Oliver said. “Got my body back healthy, just playing free and playing comfortable.”

In the last four regular-season games, Oliver had 3.5 sacks and, per Pro Football Focus, 13 pressures. To build off that, it’s been less about adding moves and more about perfecting them.

“Just tightened them up, being more precise with my hands, more precise with my footwork,” Oliver said. “I’m just rushing together with other guys. We’ve got a good feel for each other right now. Just carrying that over to the season [is] going to be key.”

He spent some time in Houston this offseason with pass-rush specialist Brandon Jordan, where he also trained more with former-teammate Jerry Hughes Jr.

“Ed has been working,” Jordan told Pro Football Network. “To see the way he’s been growing every year with his technique and the way he goes about his business and knowledge of how to do it, it’s been great to see him grow.”

For Oliver to maintain a high level of play, it helps that the Bills bolstered the defense as a whole. Center Mitch Morse said that having Oliver on the same side as Von Miller is “almost a little bit cheating.” Oliver sees where Morse is coming from, but he has a counterpoint.

“It is cheating when we are on the same side, it's definitely a win. But I think when we are on opposite sides from each other, it's even better,” Oliver said. “I know Mitch said on the same side and like you got to make sure you take care of them. But when we're on opposite sides, which one do you take care of?”

Oliver has watched some of Miller’s film from his time with the Los Angeles Rams to get a better sense of how he and Aaron Donald played off each other. Oliver doesn’t think it will directly translate to their tandem in Buffalo – he thinks Donald’s “twitchier” style of play, while clearly effective, is different from his approach.

But Oliver’s takeaway was still clear.

“I noticed they was rushing on opposite sides,” he said.

Oliver and Miller often dance on the sidelines together, and their friendship is tangibly clear throughout practice. But Oliver thinks the addition of Miller is just one of many factors making the Bills' defense stronger this season. He pointed out Greg Rousseau’s continued growth, as well as DaQuan Jones' and A.J. Epenesa’s contributions. And he’s thrilled to be reunited with Jordan Phillips.

Phillips was part of a skirmish involving quarterback Josh Allen in the team’s first padded practice, but Oliver, and even McDermott to a certain extent, have appreciated the intensity.

“I think the first padded practice Jordan was on fire,” Oliver said. “That’s what we need out of him, him to be a dominating force. Talk about a guy who can just bully somebody. We need that. That’s exactly what we’re getting out of him right now. I can’t say enough about him.”

Oliver spent plenty of time praising his teammates before he rode away on the same scooter that brought him to the press conference.

“I’m having the most fun in a training camp I’ve had,” Oliver said, “Just making plays, flying around, just hanging out with the guys, and everybody making plays.”

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

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