Ed Oliver solidifying his role and validating his paycheck in anchoring Bills’ defensive front #Oliver #solidifying #role #validating #paycheck #anchoring #Bills #defensive #front

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Ed Oliver still hasn’t forgotten about the critics who questioned the Buffalo Bills for overspending when they offered the defensive tackle a four-year, $68 million contract extension in June, nor the vow he made shortly after signing the deal.

“I feel like I’m going to outplay the contract, to be honest,” Oliver said at the time. “Just sit back and watch.”

Three months into the season, the fifth-year player has solidified his role and validated his paycheck by nearly becoming an every-down player in anchoring Buffalo’s defensive front. Oliver leads Bills defensive linemen in having played 67% of this season’s snaps, and he’s given the pass rush an added dimension with his ability to pressure the pocket from the middle.

Oliver’s 6 1/2 sacks are already a career high, and tied for third in the NFL among interior linemen. And he’s been just as formidable against the run in leading Buffalo’s linemen with 43 tackles.

So, how do you like him now?

“When you get paid and people are saying, `Why you pay the guy?′ it kind of does something to you,” Oliver said Wednesday as Buffalo (7-6) prepared to host the Dallas Cowboys (10-3) on Sunday.

“I just internalized that and just used it to fuel the fire. I know I was a good player. I know I was one of the best players that came out of my draft class,” he added. “And so that’s mainly been on my mind, and just go prove myself that I deserve to be talked about.”

Selected ninth overall in 2019 out of Houston, Oliver then proceeded to list the other first-round defensive tackles in his draft class, including the Jets’ Quinnen Williams (chosen third), Miami’s Christian Wilkins (13th), the Giants’ Dexter Lawrence (17th) and Tennessee’s Jeffery Simmons (19th).

“When you talk about them guys, you need to talk about me, too,” Oliver said.

The past knocks against Oliver focused mostly on his size — at 6-foot-1 and 287 pounds, he’s comparatively on the smaller end among NFL tackles — and inconsistencies.

Days before Oliver signed his extension, defensive line coach Eric Washington challenged Oliver to be better at anticipating plays by thinking rather than merely reacting.

On Monday, Washington praised the 26-year-old Oliver for his leadership qualities. A few weeks before that, the coach was crediting him for his consistency.

“From my vantage point, it’s a person maturing, a person that’s really knowing where to invest and how to invest, and investing with a certain level of attention to detail,” Washington said. “He’s taken a pretty significant jump in my mind.”

Bills center Mitch Morse said Oliver has a knack for pushing the pocket by always moving toward the quarterback.

“He’s not making a move that’s going to be stagnant while moving forward,” Morse said. “His ability to go from lateral quickness to vertical quickness and then having the power on impact — it’s just so fast.”

The Bills are 5-2 in games Oliver has at least a half sack this season. And Buffalo is coming off a 20-17 win at Kansas City in which Oliver contributed to the Chiefs turning the ball over on downs on their final possession.

With the Chiefs facing third-and-15, Oliver forced an incompletion by tipping Patrick Mahomes’ pass intended for Travis Kelce.

Oliver’s only lament is wishing he could have made a difference in Buffalo’s losses — three decided when opposing offenses scored the go-ahead points in the final minute or overtime. One play that stands out is Oliver failing to sack Russell Wilson on Denver’s final drive that ended with Wil Lutz hitting a 36-yard field goal as time expired to seal a 24-22 win last month.

“I take it very personally,” Oliver said. “I’m here to outlast their guys and produce late in the game, which I feel like I did, but in a couple of games I felt I could have done more.”

What he takes pride in is also something that was misunderstood by fans when Oliver recently said “the only thing on my mind” is getting eight sacks, which would trigger a $500,000 bonus clause.

It was interpreted as a selfish comment, with his critics overlooking Oliver’s entire statement. He continued by referencing Von Miller in saying: “One of my main goals is to get Von on the board, get guys on the board … creating team success.”

Oliver shook his head in dismay on Wednesday when reminded of the comment.

“Everybody has their own selfish goals,” Oliver said. “How does me hitting my sack incentive, how is that selfish toward the team, when individual success is team success?”

NOTES: The Bills opened a three-week practice window for rookie WR Justin Shorter to be activated off injured reserve. A fifth-round draft pick out of Florida, Shorter has been sidelined by a hamstring injury sustained in August. … Starting S Micah Hyde (neck) and DE A.J. Epenesa (rib) did not practice, and are not expected to play Sunday.


AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

#Oliver #solidifying #role #validating #paycheck #anchoring #Bills #defensive #front

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