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Billieve Podcast: State of the defensive line

On paper, the Bills have the talent to bounce back in 2021.

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On the latest episode of the Billieve Podcast, in the sixth installment of our State of the Buffalo Bills series, hosts John Boccacino and Jamie D’Amico break down and review the contributions the Bills received from their defensive linemen in 2020.

For the second straight year, the Bills were the team with the highest percentage of their salary cap devoted to the defensive line, with mixed results. The Bills saw their sack productivity decline from 44 in 2019 to 38 and finished 14th in the NFL in sacks per pass attempt.

The Bills are bringing back plenty of talent along the defensive line, including their top two edge rushers from last year in defensive ends Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison, along with up-and-coming defensive tackle Ed Oliver, second-year defensive end A.J. Epenesa, and defensive tackles Vernon Butler, Harrison Phillips and Justin Zimmer.

How can the Bills improve their defensive line? Well for starters, they are banking on the return of run stuffer and one-technique expert Star Lotulelei, who sat out 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns. His presence should solidify the run defense while allowing Oliver to flourish at defensive tackle. We address what Hughes and Addison can do to bolster the pass rush, discuss how big of an impact Lotulelei’s return will have on the line, and examine what Oliver needs to do to take the next step in his progression.

We also explore whether Epenesa can build upon his solid end to the 2020 season, dive into how free-agent defensive end Efe Obada represents a nice low-risk/high-reward addition to the line, say goodbye to defensive ends Trent Murphy and Quinton Jefferson, and discuss how, on the surface, the Bills’ defensive line has the talent to gel in their second year under defensive line coach Eric Washington.

Check out the latest Billieve Podcast for our thoughts on Buffalo’s defensive linemen, then join the conversation by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below.

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