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All-22 year in review: Young Bills defensive ends

Epenesa, Rousseau, and Basham rapid fire!

We’ve covered the veteran guys who may or may not be with the Buffalo Bills next season. But in order to make decisions on those guys, it helps to have a handle on the young guns (starring Kiefer Sutherland). There’s little doubt that these guys will be back and there’s a lot of ground to cover so consider the analysis of this trio half-***ed. Actually, make that one-third-***ed. I’ll shortcut the analysis but not the accuracy on the math.

Let’s do some quick-hitters on A.J. Epenesa, Greg Rousseau, and Boogie Basham. One game per player. Three GIFs in the “I just made it up right now” format of “Two highlights and one thing I don’t love” about each.


A.J. Epenesa

Play 1

As opposed to my usual analysis, this is more of a look at potential and not necessarily universal traits. For instance, this shove shows off that A.J. Epenesa has the strength to be successful at the position. But in the NFL there are lots of strong players. You need to know when/how to apply it play-after-play. Here there’s no doubt it’s applied well. That shove is merciless. It also propels Epenesa where the back wanted to go and forces the play in the other direction.

Play 2

And here we have technique issues making all that power pretty much useless. Epenesa comes in high and can’t get any leverage. This rep is pretty blah.

Play 3

It’s a game of inches and Epenesa is just a few of them shy from stopping the play but I still see this as a very positive play. He wins by extending his right arm into his opponent’s shoulder right from the start. By keeping that little bit of distance, it’s harder for the offensive lineman to latch on and Epenesa can get around the corner.

Summary

One last reminder that these are based off of single games. Epenesa flashed the tools to do the job but wasn’t a physical force. Further, some technique inconsistency limited his success. That’s hardly surprising from a second-year player, but the fact Epenesa seemed buried behind Greg Rousseau is telling. As noted, expect Epenesa to still call Western New York his football home. That doesn’t mean the Bills are expecting him to directly replace any player who could be departing.


Greg Rousseau

Play 1

The tight end is only there to chip Greg Rousseau, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a real block. Rousseau extends his arms to make sure he disengages all the way to come back to rushing the passer. Rousseau also knows he’s not getting there in time and gets his hands up. A lot of the game is played between the ears and both these things show good traits from Rousseau in that department.

Tangent alert! I keep hinting at something and this isn’t proof but perhaps it’s part of the mounting evidence. I don’t think the Bills are all that worried about sacks. A pressure leading to an incomplete pass is a good result too. Buffalo rarely looks to be in full-on attack mode.

Play 2

Rousseau leans in and doesn’t seem to have a specific plan to use his hands. It’s more like a trust fall at this point and the result is what you’d expect. The o-lineman is able to wrap him clean and keep Rousseau from going anywhere.

Play 3

The goal 100% looks to be to move Rousseau off his spot to his right (our left). He’s not having it and that shove with the right arm doesn’t do that much. Rousseau knows where to lean back, takes a good angle to get around the pulling guard and puts a little pressure on.

Summary

Again, these are based on one game each but I can see why Greg Rousseau was brought into the rotation as heavily as he was. There are technique lapses but, overall, Rousseau seems to have a good feel for the game.


Boogie Basham

Play 1

Of the bunch, Boogie Basham seems to be the bruiser. He violently sheds this block and gets in on the tackle. For later comparison, I want to point out how natural this action looks for Basham.

Play 2

This looks a lot less natural for Basham. He’s a little wild on the swings, and mechanically he looks a little stiff. I also don’t see that power translating into his arm movements. If you watch professional wrestling you’ve likely seen someone throw a fast flurry of punches. They look good on camera, but they’re probably hitting with the wrong part of the fist and there’s no drive through, meaning the punches can be described the same way as the planet Earth in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. This segment of hand fighting feels like that. My hunch would be that this is something the coaching staff is working on with Basham. It’s kind of like learning a language. The moves are there, he’s just not fluent (yet).

Play 3

The GIF really speaks for itself but this will look weird without some words underneath it. Attacking can lead to a splash play, but there’s a risk the splash doesn’t benefit Buffalo. Basham’s patience makes sure this is dead in the water.

Summary

With Epenesa and Rousseau I came away feeling that technique issues were the largest culprit in bad reps. With Basham it felt more like clumsiness. To perhaps explain better, technique woes are more like choosing the wrong skill for the situation or forgetting a part of the process. Basham seems more like the right technique, but executed with insufficient speed, force, or just plain looking awkward. That bodes well for the mental aspect of the game as Basham seems to make good choices. If the clumsiness is attributable to something as simple as the newness of what he’s trying, that bodes extremely well for his ceiling.

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