It’s fair to say Bills DE A.J. Epenesa hasn’t had the impact he or the team would have wanted as a former second-round pick. Part of the issue has been getting Epenesa to a settled playing weight. Buffalo wanted him to slim down from his college playing weight of 280 pounds. But amidst the pandemic away from the team’s facility, Epenesa couldn’t stop losing weight and fell all the way down to the 240-pound range.
“I would eat food, but it wouldn’t stick,” Epenesa said via the Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia. “I would eat, eat, eat. I’d be up 5 pounds, but if I go out and run, or if I sweat a little bit, it’s all gone. I got to the point that I couldn’t gain that weight back, or I was really struggling.”
Combined with the usual rookie growing pains, Epenesa was limited to just flashes his first two seasons, although some of them like an 11-pressure game against the Dolphins were terrific. Heading into this season, Epenesa has conquered his weight issues, bulking back up to 265 pounds, and looked terrific in Week 1, with 1.5 sacks nearly equaling his career total to that date of 2.5 sacks. Now he has to make it consistent and not just another flash in the pan.
“So much growth, not just athletically as far as maturing in his body, but the mental part of it,” Bills DC Leslie Frazier said. “Early on, and he used to make some mistakes on some things, and we’re like, ‘Come on, A.J.’ But now? Rarely. Rarely. So your confidence really grows when you put him out there no matter what the call is that comes in, he’s going to be able to handle.”
Jets HC Robert Saleh drew some ire from the fanbase this past week for his relentlessly positive message even after another Week 1 loss. One of his former players, ex-NFL CB Richard Sherman, says that’s a quality Saleh’s locker room likely appreciates.
“That’s the best coaching philosophy to have, I think — at least from the coaches I’ve dealt with,” Sherman said via ESPN’s Rich Cimini. “There’s enough negativity in the world, enough people telling you, ‘You suck. You’re not going to be able to do it. You can’t do it.’ You need somebody, even when the chips are against you, to show you, ‘Hey, here’s the way to get out of this. You can do it, you can get out of this hole.’ If he can get his team to match his commitment, it’s going to work out for him. I have total belief in that.”
- Cimini points out eight former Jets kickers are on other NFL rosters right now, which make the team’s continued struggles at the position with veteran Greg Zuerlein frustrating.
- NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero says the target for Jets QB Zach Wilson remains Week 4 against the Steelers.
- Pelissero adds there’s no thought to going to backup QB Mike White unless there’s a catastrophe on offense, per Saleh.
- Per ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Patriots LT Trent Brown dispelled speculation that he’s unhappy with his current role: “Why wouldn’t I want to play left tackle?”
- Patriots special teamer Matthew Slater has played his entire career in New England, but took a free agent visit with the Steelers in 2018: “That was a unique time in my career. I never envisioned myself playing elsewhere, but things happen in this league that are unforeseen. I grew up really disliking them, because they beat my dad [Jackie Slater] in a Super Bowl, but I have the utmost respect for them, and Mike Tomlin.”
- Reiss mentions the Patriots’ emergency long snappers are DL Deatrich Wise and LB Mack Wilson.
- NFL Media’s Mike Giardi notes that although QB Mac Jones was supportive of the Matt Patricia-led offense, some teammates showed some doubts. Patriots RB Damien Harris said they aren’t as good right now as they’re going to be, while WR Jakobi Meyers said: “Confidence isn’t an issue…[but] I question what the plan is sometimes and how we’re going to attack.”