BUFFALO, N.Y. (WROC) — The Bills defensive line room is stacked with 25 years of NFL experience between Trent Murphy, Mario Addison, and Jerry Hughes.
AJ Epenesa, the Bills highest pick this year, is fortunate to be surrounded by all of that experience on his first NFL roster. The former Iowa standout is learning more than just the playbook, how to be a better man from the veterans.
“They’re explaining all these things to me when we’re on the field, and Coach Washington teaches us a lot in the media room,” said Epenesa. “I’m fortunate to have the vets like this to learn from.”
Eric Washington, Bills new defensive line coach, knows the McDermott defense from his time in Carolina, and has been a great help to Epenesa’s growth as a potential starter.
“He means business,” said Epenesa. “He gets you riled up and makes you want to play for him.”
Playing for Washington means getting “comfortable being uncomfortable”, taking reps at every spot on the defensive line. The second round pick has already seen growth in himself, and looks forward to continuing to develop versatility with the help of the Bills staff.
Even with all of the differences of a COVID training camp, Epenesa was not really surprised by anything, only the different times players can enter the building due to testing protocol. He, along with all of the other rookies, learned the playbook virtually, and felt comfortable doing so. With no preseason games, the D-line is doing the most to prepare everyone for in-game performance in a practice setting.
“When it comes to physical reps, we’re overloading it because our time is so condensed.”
He took full advantage of virtual off season and attended Broncos star Von Miller’s pass rush summit. Instead of on-field drills, Epenesa joined hundreds of defensive linemen around the country to learn from some of the best to ever play over Zoom through film study.
“The thing I was trying to learn at the time was the cross chop move and they explained how Aaron Donald approaches it and his footwork and his hands.”
Bills fans should be excited to watch Epenesa’s development. He has plenty of NFL veterans to learn from, at One Bills Drive and beyond.