The Buffalo Bills beat the Detroit Lions 16-15 in a late-game comeback Friday in the Motor City.
One of the big stories of the game was the pocket pressure that came by way of Buffalo’s defensive end group throughout the contest.
The team made headlines this year using their first and second-round picks in the 2021 NFL Draft to select players at the same position, defensive ends Gregory Rousseau and Boogie Basham.
This, only a year after using their highest selection in the 2020 draft to take edge rusher A.J. Epenesa.
These young players on the Bills defense are looking to impact games for a chance at more time in their position group rotation in the regular season.
And on Friday’s first live game competition, they did just that.
The 30th overall pick in 2021, Rousseau had 11 pass rushes, including three pressures, and a sack. That sack came early in the first quarter against none other than the seventh overall pick from the same draft class, Penei Sewell, who Rousseau powered his way around to push Lions QB Jared Goff to the ground.
Gregory Rousseau vs. Penei Sewell pic.twitter.com/ebAzJrwXHE
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) August 13, 2021
After the game, the rookie who sat out last season at Miami was asked about the play.
“I just got off the ball, made sure I worked my hands, I think I did like a little stutter bull, and I saw Jared Goff and I tried to reach out and get him,” Rousseau said while addressing the media. “It was really great to be back out there, it was a lot of fun, the D-line we’re really tight, we live for things like that, the whole team does.”
The pressure created by Rousseau and Epenesa on the corners in closing and collapsing the pocket could be a preview of things to come, and the rookie knows it took the whole defense to get to the QB.
“It was a great feeling to get my first sack, and to be able to get back there,” Rousseau added. “But really it’s a testament to the whole defense, the secondary holding up in coverage, the other three D-lineman rushing their butts off, so really even though if I got the sack or whoever got the sack, it’s really a team effort and I’m glad we got him done.”
Rousseau wasn’t the only one happy with the results of his first game as a Bill, as head coach Sean McDermott shared his thoughts on the play.
“That’s what we want to see,” said McDermott during his media session. “We want to improve our pass rush, we were very intentional about that this offseason, so it’s good to see in particular against a guy that was picked high like Penei.”
The Bills defensive contributions didn’t stop there, 61st overall pick, Basham had a productive day as well.
While outsized at times, he was unrelenting in pressuring Detroit’s offense. It paid off in the third quarter when he combined with DE Darryl Johnson for a sack.
Free-agent addition Efe Obada joined him in making their presence felt. He played the inside and outside, and broke up a running play in the middle on fourth down.
While both players were each called during the game for roughing the passer penalties, they were part of the consistent effort that gave the Lions’ offense headaches.
The two lined up inside during the final minutes of the game with Epenesa and Rousseau on the edges, hinting at packages opposing offenses might see this season with their added versatility, size, and strength.
If this first preseason gameplay is any indication, early returns on the Bills’ DE group appear favorable.