The Buffalo Bills are facing a significant challenge as they prepare for the upcoming season. Von Miller, their star pass rusher, will likely be sidelined due to injury for a significant amount of time, leaving the team without one of their most formidable defensive weapons. The question on everyone’s mind is, can the Bills overcome the loss of Miller with the personnel they have, or should they bring in some talent to help bolster their pass rush? In 2022, the Bills’ defense was 14th in Pressure Percentage according to Tru Media and on average registered a pressure in 2.49 seconds which was 12th overall, so they could be much better. What is even more worrisome was their 19th ranking in Sack Percentage which stood at 6.5%.
During our most recent Film Room Episode, we dove into a few defensive linemen we believe could fit the Bills’ scheme for a modest price but also make an impact when they are on the field.
Dante Fowler Jr., Defensive End
Dante Fowler Jr. is a 28-year-old defensive end with a surprisingly steady career thus far. He was drafted in the first round in 2015 and has been a pass rush specialist throughout his career. Fowler is an incredibly athletic player with insane speed and agility, and when you turn on his film, it looks like a predator stalking his prey on the field.
The explosive athlete finished 2022 with a Pressure Percentage of 16.7%, fourth among ALL IDL/Edge players with at least 300 snaps (Tru Media). This includes six QB sacks and 36 Pressures.
Fowler has been used all along the defensive line and has great change of direction (COD) and attack mentality. His closing speed is impressive, and it shows up in his Average Time to Pressure which is tracked by Pro Football Focus (PFF). According to PFF, he creates pressure in 2.32 seconds, which is seventh among ALL IDL/Edge players with 300 snaps. If you look at the money down, third down, Fowler’s average time to pressure was 2.19 seconds. That’s the type of disruption and chaos the Bills need to add with Miller likely missing a good chunk of the season.
Fowler beats hands routinely, and you see that when he dips under linemen who are punching out or when he busts out his spin move. He’s a difficult pass rusher for offensive linemen to pin down because of his cat-like quickness. However, he can get displaced in the run game and is not a stack and shedder. While he occasionally flashes in this area, his true strengths lie in his pass-rushing abilities.
Overall, Fowler Jr. is an exciting player with a high ceiling. His athleticism, COD, and attack mentality make him a force to be reckoned with on the field. He is a pass-rushing specialist who excels in getting to the quarterback, especially in critical third-down situations. While he has room for improvement in the run game, his strengths are undeniable. He would be a valuable addition to any team looking for a disruptive pass rusher on a modest contract.
Samson Ebukam, Defensive End
Samson Ebukam is a physical specimen, standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing 245 lbs. Ebukam is an explosive defender who can compress the pocket and is quick to attack soft edges he creates. He utilizes speed to power and bull rushes with great effect, and his athleticism is a significant asset in his pass-rushing arsenal.
Ebukam’s ability to rush off both edges gives the defense added flexibility. His agility and core strength allow him to play the run effectively, making him a well-rounded defensive player.
Although Ebukam has some refinement to do with his pass-rush technique, his relentlessness and athleticism help him overcome this shortcoming. He learns from his mistakes in the game, which is an excellent quality to have in a player.
Ebukam was coached by Kris Kocurek in San Francisco, who is one of the best in the business. Kocurek has helped Ebukam improve his bend and ankle flexion in his game, making him a dangerous predator on the field. Overall, his physicality, speed, and aggressive mentality make him a valuable addition to any team.
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Defensive End
Standing at 6-foot-2 and weighing in at 253 lbs, Okoronkwo is a potential target for teams in search of a versatile edge rusher. If you’re the Bills, Okoronkwo could be a valuable addition to the team with his ability to rush off both edges, play the run, and create pressure.
He has a quality spin move, long arm, swipe, ghost rush, arm over, and rip, demonstrating an ability to put a pass rush plan together and work off of it. Additionally, Okoronkwo is known for his violent and quick movements, playing with lean and leverage, and attacking tight ends in the run game. He also learns from previous reps in the game, which helps him adjust his tactics and strategies. With a 16.4% pressure rate, Okoronkwo ranked 29th in pass rush among 239 defenders in 2022 with 20% of pass rush snaps, making him a viable option for the Bills to consider.
If you’re looking for more free agent fits, watch the entire Film Room episode here: