Don’t count Greg Rousseau among those who were surprised when the Buffalo Bills doubled down at defensive end last month in the NFL draft.
After using the 30th overall choice in the first round on Rousseau, the Bills selected Wake Forest’s Boogie Basham at No. 61 overall in the second round – showing General Manager Brandon Beane was serious about upgrading his team’s pass rush.
“No, I wasn’t surprised by it. I feel like pass rushers, they rotate a lot and pass rushing is one of those positions where you can never have too many really good pass rushers,” Rousseau said in a video conference call with Western New York media members. “So I feel like it was a really solid pick. I’m excited that he’s here and I’m just ready to be in here and just go through this whole entire journey with him.”
Rousseau and Basham have quickly hit it off after becoming teammates. They’ll be on the same field for the first time Friday when the Bills hold their first practice of rookie minicamp.
“I think we both bring a lot to the table, being versatile players having two of us come in same time, that can be a big help for us,” Basham said. “We talked about every day just going over some stuff, building a relationship, and then finally seeing him yesterday, and everything kind of just clicking and talking a lot more now, so hopefully we’ll be a lot more closer just because we're playing the same position.”
For Rousseau, it’s been a long time coming. After opting out of the Miami Hurricanes’ 2020 season, he’s looking forward to any kind of football-related activity – even if he’s on information overload at the moment.
“It’s definitely different from a college playbook,” Rousseau said. “College playbooks are a lot smaller, I'd say, just a lot less complex. It's really just a process of learning something here, learning something there, not trying to cram through information at once, just taking it slow and learning day by day. I feel like that's how you really master the playbook.”
“Just looking at it at first it's kind of confusing,” he said. “We sat down and broke it all down and now it's kind of starting to come a little natural to me. Some of the stuff that is in the playbook now is what we did at Wake.”
Having Basham there to learn alongside him has Rousseau excited.
“It's been real cool. He's a really cool dude,” he said. “We've been learning from each other, and I'm just ready to get in there and learn from him. I'm sure we're going to keep on building our relationship, as we will with other players, too. It's pretty exciting to have somebody play the same position as you and come in with you like same rookie class, so that's going to be pretty dope.”
Along with 2020 second-round draft pick A.J. Epenesa, Rousseau and Basham make up the future at defensive end for the Bills. All three of them, though, will be counted on to be a part of the present, as well. Getting the chance to learn from – and compete with – veterans Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison should benefit all of them.
“It’s a blessing. Being able to learn from them, they’re vets that have been doing this for a while, so they’re going to have a lot of tricks up their sleeve,” Rousseau said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun, and also competing – that’s what football’s all about, being a dog out there and having that competitive edge to you. It’s going to be great.”
Rousseau said that his initial conversations with Hughes and Addison have rarely been about football. Instead, they’ve been more introductory in nature. Those conversations will undoubtedly intensify as the regular season gets closer, but for now, the Bills’ rookies and first-year players are focused on a weekend of learning.
“For me, I'm just anxious to get in and get started,” Basham said. “Definitely when I walked in and saw the weight room, it was like, ‘A day like this, stuff like this really exists.’ Coming in, the open field, all the racks and bright colors, I was anxious to get ready to go.”
In one way, this year’s rookie class is already ahead of last year’s group. The Covid-19 pandemic forced teams to cancel rookie minicamp in 2020, but this year’s class will be able to be on the field this weekend.