It's one thing when experts pick an NFL player to have a breakout season. It's another when one of the player's coaches says the same thing. That's the deliberate tactic Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier took on Wednesday with third-year defensive tackle Ed Oliver.
Frazier immediately pointed to Oliver when asked what player he thinks can take the biggest leap this season.
"Ed has done a really good job for us at D-tackle," Frazier said at his Wednesday press conference, "but he has a chance to really open some eyes around the league this season. Looking looking forward to him having a bust-out season, and it would be really good for our defense.
"He's been consistently good, but there's a chance he could go to another level, and this would be the ideal year for that to happen."
Frazier simply reinforced what almost everyone has been saying about Oliver all along: That with the return of fellow defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (who opted out of last season because of COVID-19 concerns), a full offseason to work with defensive line coach Eric Washington and a revamped perimeter pass rush, Oliver stands to benefit most on a defense that took a step backward from "excellent" to merely "very good at times" last season.
Since being taken with the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Oliver has been spectacular at times but uneven throughout. He definitely wasn't as productive statistically last year (33 tackles, 3.0 sacks, six quarterback hits in 578 snaps) compared to his rookie season (43 tackles, 5.0 sacks, eight quarterback hits in 556 snaps).
But numbers rarely come close to defining the value of players at Oliver's position.
Bottom line: The Bills believe Oliver is headed for his best season.
And so does Oliver, who couldn't be more pleased with the players alongside him who will be crucial in that process.
"Star will draw a lot of attention," Oliver said. "He's a great nose guard, going to allow me to play more [3-technique] this year. So I'm happy about that."
Oliver is just as thrilled with how the Bills bolstered their defensive end group in the offseason, signing free agent Efe Obada and drafting Greg Rousseau and Boogie Basham.
"They did a great job drafting guys to put around me and guys that are already here, Jerry [Hughes] and Mario [Addison] and even [signing] Efe." So we've got all the tools ... to go out there and just be great. All we've got to do is just make it happen on Sundays."