Bills’ third-year defensive end Gregory Rousseau has dealt with multiple injuries that have restricted his overall abilities, but when it comes to the run he’s still playing at an elite level. On the season, Rousseau sits 7th in Pro Football Focus’ Run Stop Percentage at 10.9%. While it is a short drop from his rookie-season leading 1st place ranking in this statistic, his play against the run has been critical on early downs to make opposing offenses one-dimensional.
In order to consistently win against the run, you must play with consistent hand placement. Rousseau routinely wins first touch thanks to his 34 3/8 inch arm length, and then has an uncanny ability to hit the target on an offensive lineman’s frame to gain control.
Controlling the play side half of a blocker is crucial to affecting a run play. As Rousseau recognizes the running back’s track, he drives through the play side of the lineman to shorten the edge and then disengages for the tackle.
The former Hurricane is incredibly disciplined when it comes to processing against the run. He rarely just goes full throttle at the play, he sticks to his keys and reads plays out.
Against the Raiders, he gets to the proper depth post-snap, even with the Raiders linemen pulling away from him which typically signifies a run away. Rather than chasing the play down the line of scrimmage, Rousseau stays home to string out the pitch to Josh Jacobs.
Rousseau had some of his best plays against the run in week 12 versus the Eagles and when you consider the fact that they were against Designed QB rushes, these plays were twice as impactful. Typically, QB runs are a major advantage to the offense because the offense has a +1. But on this play, Rousseau stated that on the following two plays he “kind of felt it coming.”
And good thing he did because the Eagles have a +2 blockers to defenders advantage. Rousseau stepped past the right tackle, then dipped and ripped under the blocker’s hands then went and ended the play. This could have been a much bigger play if not for the recognition by Rousseau.
Here’s the other QB run that Rousseau shut down. This is called Counter Bash. QB Jalen Hurts is reading Defensive End A.J. Epenesa. If Epenesa crashes on the play, Hurts will hand it off to RB DeAndre Swift. If he stays outside, the Eagles have a QB Counter run called for Hurts to keep it and get upfield.
Epenesa forces the keep so Hurts is waiting for the pullers to create the alley on the frontside. Rousseau recognized that Hurts kept the ball after the mesh, gracefully worked around the Kick Out block by Guard Landon Dickerson and laid a lick on Hurts.
Setting the Edge
Rousseau sits third in total tackles against the run with 38 tackles, just behind Alex Highsmith and Sam Hubbard and that’s a testament to his ability to do what edge defenders are responsible for – setting the edge. On the snap, Rousseau Stacks with great Hand placement, and then monitors the flow of the play.
Poyer is coming downhill to take on the fullback, so Rousseau knows that how that collision unfolds, will determine what direction the back cuts. But for now, he is just Stacking and waiting.
RB Breece Hall decides to bounce the play outside.
So thats when Rousseau disengages and rips the ball out as he is bringing Hall down to the turf.
Rousseau is just so good at doing his 1/11th, letting others do theirs and then if the play bounces to him, so be it. He consistently sets the edge and sets up to disengage if and when he needs to. You can see that here. All of the linebackers fired downhill into their gaps, so there is nowhere for Swift to go.
But Rousseau makes sure to control the wrist of the blocker so that if the back bounces it wide, he is able to break free from the block. Which is exactly what happens. Swift bounces wide and Rousseau disengages and tracks the ball carrier down.
On this play against the Giants, Rousseau once again wins 1st touch, gets positional leverage on the blocker to set the edge. He then drops his body to anchor, and uses his long arms to keep the blocker at bay. But the best part about this play is the fact that he controls the tackle with one arm and keeps his outside arm free, TEXTBOOK.
Rousseau sensed Saquon Barkley set to bounce it out wide, so he gains control of the wrist of the blocker to disengage.
Defensive tackle Ed Oliver blocks up his block and Rousseau is there to finish the play.
It’s been a tough season for the Bills’ defense overall, and an especially tough season for Rousseau when it comes to his injuries to his foot and how that has impacted his production as a rusher. But his technique against the run has not suffered one bit. He has improved upon it and leaned on it and it has helped him continue to be one of the best run defending edge players in the NFL.