Bills pass rush shines and shows huge improvement in preseason opener vs. Lions

Sports

Detroit Lions quarterback Tim Boyle throws during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Friday, Aug. 13, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

DETROIT (WIVB) – In the offseason, the Bills put a big emphasis on improving their pass rush and in Friday night’s first preseason game, the improvement was already noticeable led by first-round pick Greg Rousseau.

He made his presence known early, literally. It only took him three plays to bring down Lions quarterback Jared Goff. On 3rd and 10 on Detroit’s opening drive, Rousseau sacked Goff for a loss of 11.

“It was a great feeling to get my first sack and be able to get back there but really it’s just a testament to the whole defense, you know the secondary holding up in coverage, the other three d-linemen rushing their butts off so really even though I got the sack it’s really just a team effort and I’m happy we got him down,” Rousseau said after the game.

Rousseau beat seventh overall pick, Lions right tackle Penei Sewell on the play. Rousseau played the entire first half and while obviously, it is just preseason but if this production translates over to the regular season, the Bills will be in great shape towards a massive step up in bringing down opposing quarterbacks compared to 2020.

This was Rousseau’s first game since December 26th, 2019 when he was still in college at Miami. He opted out of the 2020 because of the pandemic. So far in training camp Rousseau has flashed, hasn’t looked out of place and has showed off that size, length and power so it wasn’t a surprise it carried over to this game.

“It was really great to be back out there, it was a lot of fun. The d-line, we’re real tight and we live for things like that, the whole team does so it was great to be back out there,” Rousseau said.

“What I learned, I’d say just things are a lot faster for sure in the league compared to college you know the ball gets out quicker, the tackles run block better, everybody’s just a step ahead compared to people in college but at the end of the day it’s still football.”

Rousseau wasn’t the only one who showed this pass rush has taken a step up, Boogie Basham also got pressure on the quarterback as well as Efe Obada who is also having a nice camp. Obada almost had a sack but forced Tim Boyle out of the pocket and as he was scrambling, led to an incomplete pass. Darryl Johnson Jr. also had a sack in the second half as well.

Other strong defensive plays came from Levi Wallace and Andre Smith.

Wallace continues to show why if the season started tomorrow, he would be the starter opposite of Tre’Davious White and looks like that’s how it’s going to be as he has been consistent throughout camp as opposed to his direct competition, Dane Jackson who’s had an up and down summer and that continued in this game.

One of the plays that stood out to me in this one was a fantastic pass breakup by Wallace in the end zone. Goff was looking for Tyrell Williams but Wallace read the play the entire time, turned around and broke up the pass.

Then there’s linebacker Andre Smith who was an absolute beast in this game. He was all over the place and making a strong case to be a backup behind Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano. Smith led the Bills with eight tackles, a tackle for loss and almost had a leaping interception which would have also been one of the most talked about plays from this game but a roughing the passer call on Obada wiped it out.

Offensively, the Bills made it a point to work on running the ball and Devin Singletary led the way. Eight of the Bills first ten play calls were runs. Part of that also has to do with already knowing what they have in backup quarterback Mitchell Trubisky who only attempted two passes.

The emphasis was the run game and Singletary ended with 42 rushing yards on eight carries for 5.3 yards per carry. He also had a six-yard touchdown catch from Davis Webb to cap off an 83-yard scoring drive in the second quarter. Second-year running back Zack Moss did not play as he is still dealing with a hamstring injury.

While Jake Fromm is fighting for a roster spot and spent all of last season isolated from the team as the Bills emergency Covid quarterback, his first game action with Buffalo ended on a high note. As expected, there were shaky moments. Fromm was sacked twice but Tommy Doyle and Bobby Hart also did him no favors when it came to protection or really it was a lack there of.

But credit to Fromm, he bounced back and made his biggest play of the night, hooking up with rookie Marquez Stevenson for 42 yards on 4th and 10 with 1:17 left in the game as the Bills were down 15-13. That was all part of a scoring drive capped off by a Tyler Bass 44-yard field goal with 15 seconds left as the Bills went on to win it 16-15.

Again, while it’s only preseason and it wouldn’t have matter if they lost, as head coach Sean McDermott said after the game, it was good experience for these guys to be in situations like this.

One injury note from this game: wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins left with a knee injury and did not return. He had one catch in the game.

The first round of cuts need to be made by Tuesday at 4 p.m. as NFL teams have to get their rosters down to 85 players.

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