ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – Bills rookie defensive end A.J. Epenesa finally got his taste of NFL football when the pads came on at training camp this week.
This comes after he missed out on rookie mini camp and the rest of spring workouts because of the virtual offseason due to the pandemic.
“We got those kind of taken away from us but everyone’s kind of adjusting and everyone’s working through it. We’re not the only rookies in the league that are dealing with this so it’s just kind of having to be adaptable and adjusting to the current situation,” Epenesa said on a zoom call with reporters.
“The transition into putting pads on and to hitting it’s been good and it’s really nice to be back out on the field and kind of to let some aggression out and use some physicality for a change. It’s been a good transition so far,” Epenesa explained.
The Bills drafted Epenesa 54th overall out of Iowa in the second-round with their first pick in the draft.
“There’s 100% an acclimation period when it comes to just kind of switching over to putting full pads on and getting into the physicality of it. It’s just a different level from college and something I need to kind of meet and do well with. But once that adjustment period passes I think things will be going well,” Epenesa explained.
Along with Epenesa, the Bills addressed built their depth on the defensive line this offseason signing guys like Mario Addison, Quinton Jefferson and Vernon Butler.
With Addison now in the defensive end room with Jerry Hughes and Trent Murphy, Epenesa says it’s beneficial to have those veterans to lean on while getting acclimated to the speed of the NFL game.
“They’ve helped me a lot on the field just when it comes to just having experience. Those guys have been through every possible situation when it comes to playing football and they’re talking to me about tracks, they’re talking to me about aggressive and passive sets and all those different types of things to look for and how you have to react in a split second,” Epenesa explained.
In addition to learning from his veteran teammates, he also picked up a lot from Von Miller’s pass rush summit.
Sean McDermott stresses versatility and places high importance in having players that can play multiple positions, which is what they’re teaching Epenesa now.
“Coach Washington has really been emphasizing learning all four spots on the defensive line so I’ve been moving from end to the one to the three, I mean every position on the line that you could think of that’s where I’ve been playing and I’m trying to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I’ve been put in situations where I really haven’t been put in before and trying to learn and improve on those to make me a more versatile player across the line,” Epenesa said.
“I thought he got out to a nice start in terms of playing a couple different positions so really what he’s challenged with right now is being able to digest all that information as the volume has added up so that he can play fast and really pin his ears back and that’s what we’re working on right now,” McDermott said on a zoom call with reporters.