The Buffalo Bills spent their first two draft picks in the 2021 NFL Draft on defensive ends. One of those players quickly became a contributor on the defense. One of those players essentially became a player stashed for the season. Both of them, however, stand to pick up a ton of snaps this season.
Last year, two of Buffalo’s top players in the defensive end rotation were Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison. Both of those players have moved on, as the pair signed with the Houston Texans this spring. That leaves the Bills with a young group looking to step up—well, with a pretty big veteran addition, too.
In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we profile Buffalo’s 2021 first-round pick.
Name: Greg Rousseau
Height/Weight: 6’6” 266 lbs
Age: 22 (23 on 4/52023)
Experience/Draft: 2; selected in the first round (No. 30 overall) of the 2021 NFL Draft by Buffalo
Acquired: First-round draft choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Rousseau enters the second year of his rookie deal, a four-year contract with an option for a fifth year. As a first-round choice, that contract is fully guaranteed at a total of $11,608,200. For the 2022 season, Rousseau carries a cap hit of $2,638,227.
2021 Recap: Rousseau fit right into Buffalo’s rotation along the defensive line, playing on 531 snaps, or 49% of the team’s defensive total. That made him DE2 in terms of play time, slotting in behind Hughes (52%) and ahead of Addison (45%). Rousseau tied for second on the team in sacks, and he was eight on the team in total tackles, second in quarterback hits, and tied for third in tackles for loss. In all, it was a great rookie season for the man they call Groot. His total line was as follows: 50 tackles, eight tackles for loss, four sacks, ten quarterback hits, one interception, one forced fumble, and four passes defended.
Positional outlook: Rousseau figures to start across from teammate Von Miller at defensive end. Boogie Basham, Buffalo’s 2021 second-round pick, and A.J. Epenesa, the team’s 2020 second-round pick, also return and figure to weigh heavily in the rotation. Veteran Shaq Lawson re-signed with the Bills, and he’s obviously a good fit in the defense, as he was productive with the team from 2016-2019. Mike Love and Kingsley Jonathan round out the group.
2022 Offseason: Rousseau is healthy and he attended OTAs. He’s also attended Miller’s third annual pass-rush summit.
2022 Season outlook: Rousseau’s rookie season was sneakily outstanding, and if he played in a system where defensive ends were on the field more, it may have lost the element of stealth. According to Pro Football Focus, Rousseau had 41 defensive stops last season, which was the fourth-most among rookie edge rushers since 2006. The three players above him—Khalil Mack, Nick Bosa, and Von Miller—all played at least 76% of their respective teams snap counts (Bosa played 76%, Miller played 90%, and Mack played 89%). If Rousseau plays around 60% of the snaps, it’s reasonable to expect that his stat line will look even more impressive.
Rousseau is the perfect defensive end for Buffalo’s defensive system—he’s strong at the point of attack, he wins with his length, he plays his assignments, and he has a high motor. Now that teams will have someone that they absolutely have to double-team on the other side of him in Von Miller, it’s going to open up plenty of opportunity for everyone else along the defensive line. Rousseau stands to be the biggest beneficiary, and a ten-sack season may be in his near future. He’s set up to have a great year in 2022.