If it wasn’t for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky facing his former team in the Chicago Bears in Week 2 of the Buffalo Bills’ preseason, the defensive line would’ve been the talk of the town.
The Bills topped the Bears 41-15 and throughout the game, Chicago’s quarterbacks were kept off balance thanks to a ferocious effort on Buffalo’s D-line. Starting Bears QB Andy Dalton might’ve seen the worst of it.
The Bills, who did rest many starters during the game, did not do so with their young pass rushers. That crew took advantage of their opportunities and defensive end AJ Epenesa said following the game that this was always the plan leading up to the game.
“We just put a huge emphasis on pass rush this week,” Epenesa said. “Last week we did good, but we wanted to do better. We studied them, studied their sets, and watched their reactions.”
Along the defensive line, Epenesa was certainly a highlight.
While not recording a sack in the outing, Epenesa bowled over a Bears lineman en route to getting in a QB hit on Dalton. The play was not challenged by the Bills, but it appeared Dalton fumbled the ball on the play as well.
That would’ve been a massive swing of momentum in a regular season game.
Epenesa wasn’t alone, either. Other young edge rushers, specifically the rookies, in Greg Rousseau and Boogie Basham, stood out.
The first rounder had a sack for the second-straight preseason game. Basham, Buffalo’s second-round rookie, got in on the fun as well with a sack and two tackles for loss. Basham also had a team-high five total tackles.
“Boogie and Greg’s first games especially, getting them their first NFL reps before the actual season, so that’s a big thing for us as a defensive line, just to get that consistency, to get those repetitions, to get some wins and to know what it feels like, so that we can keep getting that,” Epenesa said.
In charge of deciding who plays in the exhibition season is Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott. He did bench many players for the Bears meeting, including quarterback Josh Allen.
McDermott went on to explain his playing time for the defensive end spot. Much of it had to do with experience building.
“These games are always tough to decide, who plays, who doesn’t play and the ones that play, how much do they play,” McDermott said. “The young guys need to play in order to get experience and improve. The more they can see, the better they’ll be. So yeah, it was a good step for some of those guys up front.”
Considering McDermott’s feelings on getting younger players on the field last weekend, seeing his choices for Buffalo’s third and final preseason game will be interesting.
When the Green Bay Packers visit Orchard Park on Saturday, is McDermott going to still play his highly-touted young players? Or is he comfortable with what they’ve produced so far?