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The Buffalo Bills began their 2021 NFL draft in the late hours of the night. Eventually at No. 30 overall, the Bills landed defensive end Greg Rousseau.
The Miami product comes to the Bills having exploded onto the college football scene in 2019. In 13 games played that season, he had 54 tackles, including 19.5 for loss, along with 15.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
Again, that’s in one single campaign, but Rousseau is the type of prospect that we have to tempter expectations for. in regard to how he’ll fit in with the Bills… at least right away. Part of that has to do with the fact that he really only had that one year of college football experience. That’s not a lot no matter how good it went.
Next season, expect… the guy Rousseau will be tied to for the foreseeable future: AJ Epenesa. Like Rousseau, Epenesa came to Buffalo coming off a college season with double-digit tackles for loss (14) and sacks (11.5). Still, he was worked into the lineup slowly. So much so, he was inactive for the Bills’ season opener last year.
But that’s not to say that Rousseau won’t see any playing time with the Bills as a rookie. Bills head coach Sean McDermott runs a big rotation along the defensive line. Last season the top-two in terms of snaps played in that rotation were Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison.
At least early, expect that to be the same. By the end of the season, Epenesa might start seeing more snaps if he’s ready to handle that load. Factoring that in, don’t expect Rousseau to be the guy the overtakes Hughes or Addison in 2021, it’s much more likely to be Epenesa.
Rousseau might not see himself inactive on game day, but until he rounds out his full skill set, he could see similar snap counts as Epenesa did as a rookie next year. Playing in 14 games last season, Epenesa saw action in 27 percent of Buffalo’s total snaps on defense.
So now that begs the question, what does Rousseau have to do to improve his game enough so he can achieve starting reps?
While an edge player, Rousseau can move all around the defensive line, according to his scouting reports. That’s good. But he did so in college on the inside so he could exploit lesser skilled guards and centers with his athleticism. Quicker offensive tackles handled him better. In the pros, he has to bring an all-around pass rushing prowess and not rely one thing.
Like other young prospects, or just 21-year-olds in general, Rousseau will need to add to his frame, too.
It’ll take some patience from the Bills, but let’s be fair. Rousseau was a first-round pick for a reason. He has talent. We’ll have to just give him time to see what he can become.
Rookie projection: Rotational defensive lineman, especially on passing downs.
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