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Emphasis on pass rush gives Bills defense solid outing against Bears

A.J. Epenesa, Andy Dalton
Posted at 5:55 PM, Aug 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-21 17:55:36-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Leading up to their second preseason game, the Buffalo Bills defense was dialed in on one big thing.

"We just put a huge emphasis on pass rush this week," defensive end AJ Epenesa said. "Last week we did good, but we wanted to do better. We studied them, studied their sets, and watched their reactions."

The defensive performance was pretty solid from start to finish as they limited the Bears to just 15 points, applying pressure all game and not making it easy for their opponent's quarterback room. The unit, rotating all game, finished with four sacks and 12 QB hits.

"That just shows the depth we have and the versatility of all our guys," Epenesa said about the guys who played. "We have ends rushing from the three techniques, three techniques rushing from the ends. It shows our group as a whole has taken a step forward and we're ready to keep progressing each week."

With some of the defensive line starters [Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison, and Star Lotulelei] sitting out for a second straight week, opportunities were aplenty for the younger guys. It's a big positive for those who need some extra experience before the regular season begins.

Greg Rousseau, who had a sack last week against the Lions, added another on Saturday and finished with two QB hits. Boogie Basham had his first sack of the preseason and added two tackles for loss and two QB hits.

"The young guys need to play to get experience and improve. The more they see, the better they'll be," head coach Sean McDermott said. "It was a good step for some of those guys up front, and it was good to see."

"That's a big thing for us young guys, to get more reps under our belt, Greg and Boogie especially get them those NFL reps before the season," Epenesa added about their increased time on the field. "Getting that consistency, getting those repetitions and some wins - know what it feels like so we can keep getting that."

Epenesa is entering his second season in the NFL and knew he had to improve in several areas of his game following his rookie season. He spent the offseason focusing on becoming more of a "speed rusher" than a "pure power rusher" after dropping some weight. As a result, he's added quickness and speed to his game.

"The strength had gone down [after dropping to 255 from 280 lbs.] but this offseason, where I got to spend some time with the coaches in the building, that was a big role for me to get that strength back to where it needs to be and my body weight," Epenesa said. "I've just been thinking about my get-off. People thought my get-off wasn't as quick. Being able to change my body and to get consistent steps off the ball and speed off the ball, that's a big change and that sets up the rush as a whole very single play."

As for other defensive performances in the team's win over the Bears, Nick McCloud had a 20-yard interception return while Damar Hamlin had a fumble recovery.

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