Over the next few weeks, Buffalo Fanatics will be reviewing the seasons of different Buffalo Bills players. Working with Kevin Siracuse, I’ll be taking a closer look at the 2022 seasons of some of our supposed most important defensive contributors. In this edition, we’ll cover second-year defensive end Greg Rousseau.
When ‘Groot’ was drafted 30th overall by the Bills in 2021, he was an unrefined enigma of a player. He’d had only one true season playing defensive end and the University of Miami and, despite impressing with a lot of raw talent and athleticism, he had work to do. His rookie season showed some sparks, but he didn’t provide the production the pass-rush needed. How did he fare in season number two?
The Bright Side
Let’s start with some positives. Greg Rousseau only played 12 full games in the regular season, but posted eight total sacks (double his 2021 production) and took a notable step forward with his pass-rush technique. He had a great start to the year, posting four sacks over his first four games. Tackles for loss went from eight to 10.
Despite missing Weeks 10-12 after an injury sustained early in Week 9, his snap count only dropped slightly compared to his fully-healthy 2021 season. He took 553 snaps this year to 2021’s 599, losing 3.5 games to injury. Rousseau took far more time on the field each game, across from Von Miller as the stars of Sean McDermott’s rotational defensive line.
After Von Miller went down in Week 12 with that torn ACL, Greg Rousseau led his position in snaps.
Unfortunately, that’s where things got very difficult indeed.
He was significantly less consistent following the loss of Von Miller, and his efforts to specialize as a pass-rusher meant he logged fewer tackles, with only 37 for the entire season. That’s down by 13 from his 2021 total.
Without Miller on the other side, Greg Rousseau became the focus of opposing offensive lines, and the extra attention forced him into a rut. Missing the team’s star pass-rusher, Groot posted 21 tackles, three sacks, and three tackles for loss in his last seven games.
The story was the same in the postseason, as he completely disappeared, despite logging 90 snaps. Against the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals, he made four total tackles with no sacks or TFLs. All of that against a Bengals offensive line that was as beaten up as any in the league. The entire team was at fault for that collapse, but Greg Rousseau did his part to keep us in the hole.
2022 In Review
The Buffalo Bills have been plagued, these past two seasons, by a difficult philosophical query. Is this team/player/scenario distasteful, or has our perspective changed? We can apply it all over the team.
Were the Bills disappointing this season, or are we dwelling on one bad game because of its timing?
Was the defense bad, or did they simply let us down in our most recent memory?
Did Greg Rousseau fail to perform this year, or was he a victim of this narrative?
Groot was expected to step comfortably into his role as DE2 this season, using his freakish physical traits to help form a scary pass-rush group. Bills fans, as well as the rest of the NFL, believed he had taken a step forward. That was supposed to reflect in his play for 2022.
I believe it did. Rousseau wasn’t nearly as much of a let-down as many imagine. He took technical steps forward, and it translated into production. His injury cost him a few games, and the loss of Von Miller affected the entire defense, but he still gave us some major performances and made numerous great plays throughout the course of the season.
Consistency was an issue, but a 12-game season with eight sacks primarily playing as the second-fiddle is a good year by many veteran standards. His counterpart was on pace for double-digits and more, as was Rousseau himself before a pair of injuries and all the issues that followed.
Greg Rousseau’s Final 2022 Grade: B-
Now, heading into 2023, Greg Rousseau is set to be alone again. The Buffalo Bills will undoubtedly be Von-less to kick off next season. Can Groot take another step as he goes into only his fourth year playing this position? We expect so. Double digits sacks are on the table once again, with or without a future Hall-of-Famer alongside him.
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