First Sean McDermott, then Leslie Frazier, and now Dion Dawkins.
During OTA practices at this point in the offseason, we usually don’t see many head-turning things. But we’re starting to see one growing trend over the past two weeks.
No, not “trust the process.”
Head coach, defensive coordinator and franchise left tackle have all been sure to mention one name recently: Defensive end AJ Epenesa.
Epenesa, Buffalo’s top-overall pick in Round 2 of the 2020 NFL draft, had a slow start to his career. He turned it around, but early struggles were attributed to him losing too much weight last offseason and the altered summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic probably didn’t help, either.
But now it sounds like Epenesa has turned a page. After coaches had complimented the pass rusher, a player in Dawkins has now followed suit. On the field, the offensive lineman absolutely sees a difference.
“I speak to AJ every single day… and I compliment him every single day,” Dawkins said via video conference this week.
“I ask him how his body feels and he says, ‘Man, honestly, I like it,’ and I say, ‘Yup, we do, too,’” Dawkins added. “He’s taking reps against me, and I can physically feel the difference and he’s not a feather anymore and he’s growing really, really well. I’m very excited to see what AJ does next.”
Dawkins’ thoughts follow praise from McDermott and Frazier who both mentioned how much Epenesa has come along. Frazier specially said he sees a more “explosive” player now.
Epenesa himself has admitted to having struggles as a rookie, but also followed that with feeling better about himself now. That could be big news for the Bills defense.
After failing to sign free-agent JJ Watt, the Bills decided to select Greg Rousseau and Boogie Basham at the top of the 2021 NFL draft. Those two young guys, and now a confident Epenesa, will battle for playing time with each other and versus veterans Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison during training camp.
If that competition brings out the best of that group, the Bills could be poised to improve on their 38 total sacks as the team last season.