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Can Greg Rousseau continue his improved second season without Von Miller?

Rousseau is in the middle of an improved second season

Green Bay Packers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills wanted to upgrade their pass rush again in the offseason, and did just that with the signing of former Los Angeles Rams edge rusher and two-time Super Bowl champion Von Miller to a six year, $120 million contract.

Everything was going well with that plan until Miller suffered a torn ACL, sidelining him for at least the remainder of the 2022 season. Miller had 45 pressures and eight sacks for Buffalo in 11 games before going down during the Bills’ Thanksgiving Day victory over the Detroit Lions. But Miller’s arrival and subsequent success may have overshadowed the success of the second-year man opposite him in Greg Rousseau.

The long-limbed edge rusher from the University of Miami affectionately known as “Groot” (inspired by the Marvel Comics character who is an anthropomorphic tree) has also been having a good year. While not reaching the heights of future Hall of Famer Miller, Rousseau has accumulated six sacks and 27 pressures in nine games. He is 10th in the NFL in pass-rush win rate among edge rushers with at least 100 pass rush snaps, per Pro Football Focus. In his rookie year, Rousseau had a pass-rush win rate of 13.8%, which ranked 57th in the NFL among pass rushers with at least 100 pass-rush snaps. It took him all 17 regular season games in 2021 to accumulate six sacks and 30 pressures.

In Miller’s absence, one would naturally assume that an issue of double teams would arise. Without the star free-agent acquisition taking attention, Rousseu’s improved second-year production may plateau. But Miller wasn’t commanding significant double-team attention prior to his injury. Per Seth Walder of ESPN Analytics, Miller had received a double team on fewer than 20% of his pass-rush snaps, with 17 pass rushers with a meaningful sample size to qualify ahead of him. This is because Bills one technique defensive tackle Daquan Jones is receiving pass-rush double teams on a significant level (just shy of 70% of pass-rush snaps), with only two defensive tackles (Aaron Donald and Quinton Jefferson) receiving double teams at a higher rate.

So although it may be a knee-jerk reaction to assume that Rousseau’s stronger second season may hit a wall due to the loss of Miller, it’s not unreasonable to believe that it could continue due to the presence of the criminally underrated Jones on the interior.

...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive, and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!