Bills linebacker named to All-Breakout Team despite already being released

Bills linebacker named to All-Breakout Team despite already being released

We’re firmly in the depths of the NFL offseason, a several-week dead period between offseason workouts and the start of training camp during which not much of note happens. It’s a period that fans often fill with hopeful talk about rookie ceilings and players poised to break out; CBS Sports reporter Josh Edwards has been part of that trend, recently compiling an “All-Breakout Team” for the 2024 NFL season.

The Buffalo Bills have one representative on the team, with Terrel Bernard named as the top candidate on the roster at linebacker. Edwards cited the defensive back… solid play in place of Matt Milano as a reason for his optimism.

“Bernard was thrown into the equation last year when Matt Milano got hurt, but he grew into the role,” Edwards wrote. “He only rushed 10.6 percent of dropbacks, according to TruMedia, and still had 6.5 sacks. Bernard was also fifth among linebackers in defensive passer rating.”

Related: DC Bills shine ahead of underrated LB: ‘This guy just has it’

It’s encouraging to finally see Bernard receive some national recognition; the only problem is that Bernard, for all intents and purposes, has already burstHe started all 17 games for Buffalo at middle linebacker last season, allowing his defense to function without five-year starter Tremaine Edmunds, who left as a free agent in the 2023 offseason. Bernard totaled 143 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, five pass deflections, three interceptions and three fumble recoveries, his frequent splash play making him a consistently impactful defender who quickly made Bills fans forget about their missing defensive signal-caller.

Bernard’s skill set and style of play aren’t dissimilar to veteran linebacker Matt Milano, whom Edwards wrote he replaced after the former All-Pro fractured his tibia in Buffalo’s Week 5 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. That’s not the case; Milano has long been the Bills’ weakside linebacker while Bernard has played middle linebacker for the team. They started all five games Milano played last season alongside each other, with their snap counts through the first four weeks of the campaign perfectly matching each other.

Matt Milano

September 11, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Buffalo Bills linebacker Matt Milano (58) reacts after his interception with linebacker Terrel Bernard (43) during the first half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

It could reasonably be argued that Bernard’s impact has been more noticeable in Milan’s absence, but the idea that the 25-year-old was ‘thrown into the equation’ following the veteran’s injury is simply wrong.

While Bernard’s talent is already recognized among the Buffalo faithful, he’s not necessarily a clear-cut inclusion on an “All-Breakout Team” due to the fact that his sophomore effort was largely overlooked nationally. Bernard didn’t receive any major accolades during the 2023 campaign despite his stellar play; he’s far from a household name despite his consistent impact.

He’ll have the opportunity to play alongside a healthy Milan in the 2024 season, which should only lead to further success. Bernard is by no means a “breakout” candidate for Bills fans — that effort came last year; however, it would be nice to finally see him earn some well-deserved national recognition for his play this fall.

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