Every team has their quirks. The Chiefs can always find speed. The Steelers scout wide receivers better than any team in the league. The Titans love to invest in their offensive line then defend Marcus Mariota when he’s always injured. And the Texans, well the Texans, are smitten by late round and undrafted defensive linemen who are decent against the run but can’t rush the passer. Jared Crick. Sam Montgomery (lol). Jeoffrey Pagan. Christian Covington. Joel Heath. Brandon Dunn. Carlos Watkins. Angelo Blackson.
In the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft the Texans selected University of Texas defensive end Charles Omenihu. Is Omenhiu like those previous ghosts, or is he something more, is he a complete player?
Omenihu is a fine run defender. He is rarely driven back in the run game. Consistently he maintains his gap and ground. He knows how to take on half of the offensive lineman and sit. His pad level is usually great and he uses his elongated arms to extend offensive linemen. Most run plays look like this.
When the defense allows him to be aggressive and storm the gap, he can drive the inside half of the offensive lineman and into the ball carrier. His hands are a plus too. He can fumble around the dark and use them to feel his way to the ball like fuzzy antennas.
He can make plays in the backfield when he shoots the gap. He isn’t going to take on the outside half, drive, sit, shed, and go devour the running back. The lateral quickness isn’t here to do this. Instead his tackles for a loss come from him penetrating into the backfield by going through half the lineman, or slanting into the inside gap, getting skinny, and dragging down the ball carrier. It’s impressive how good he is at making himself smaller and narrowing the target the offensive lineman has.
His best trait is his arm length and wing span. He’s one of those monstrous fruit bats, or a condor riding the vectors, hazy and dreamlike. Omenihu is able to consistently press linemen off of him, to give himself the freedom and ability to find and chase the football, even if he doesn’t have the quickness to close the gap and snap up the ball carrier.
As a run defender he’s a 3-4 defensive end. He’ll play the 4i or 5. He’ll take on the inside shoulder and sit and maintain his gap, and every once in a while he’ll dive bomb the inside gap, make a play in the backfield, and lose his damn mind. Yet, he won’t be a consistent disruptive force against the run. In the NFL he should be solid, dependable, and has the frame he can add weight and strength to. Angelo Blackson probably doesn’t need to worry about his playing time anytime soon.
The problem is most of what he does in the pass game isn’t going to work at the next level. I’m going to fight the first person who brings up his 9.5 sacks last season at UT to dispute this. Omenihu beat offensive tackles by long arming, or getting to the outside shoulder and ripping against some abhorrent pass sets. Geeze man, I have no idea what the kids are learning in school nowadays. Close down all the universities. Student debt, like employee provided healthcare, limits personal freedom anyways. These pass sets are putrescent and have no resemblance to what Omenihu will see once OTAs begin.
This is trudgery from the right tackle. His feet are heavier than cheap rollerblades. He opens the gate, delays contact, doesn’t punch, and gives Omenihu his outside shoulder. The quarterback never reacts to the rush either. Come on man. Step up.
The left tackle from Baylor has an atrocious set here too. He’s slow out of his stance, he is way too high, he lunges and dips his head when he attempts to punch the end, and Omenihu rips around his punch without a problem. It’s a fine pass rush move. It shows off Omenihu’s rip well, but the pass blocking is atrocious.
In the pros Omenihu is going to struggle to reach the outside shoulder, make contact first, and beat the tackle to the point of attack. He even made the lumbering Dalton Risner look quick. There’s a general lack of short area quickness here. I bet you most of his next level pass rushes will look just like this.
As an edge rusher, Omenihu struggles to beat the tackle to the point of attack with speed and quickness alone. It takes an awful pass set for it to happen. Omenihu is an edge rusher who has to win with his hands—plain and simple. Long arms and rips. Long arms and rips. That’s his game.
He doesn’t have the athleticism to explode off the ball and run around the tackle. But he does have a knack for jumping the snap. You’ll see it occasionally with him. He’ll move instantaneous with the ball, and get around the tackle immediately. This isn’t because of a superb get off though. This is him understanding how to jump the snap.
It doesn’t work every time. Against quicker, non hideous tackles, the lineman can catch back up and get drive Omenihu wide fairly easily.
He lacks the athleticism to close the gap between him and the quarterback. Tackles have the ability to peel back and knock him off the arc once they get beat, and quarterbacks can scramble away from him when they see him in time. There isn’t any burst once he gets off the block.
Out the edge he also lacks an inside move. He doesn’t have the strength to overwhelm linemen with a bullrush. He doesn’t have a counter to his edge rush and rip. In the NFL, a player can’t be a productive rusher without a counter. Omenihu doesn’t have one. He’s all long arms and rips.
The Texans employ J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, as of now, and this will lead to Omenihu rushing on the interior, either as a 3, 4i, or 5, depending on how wide they want to get Watt and Clowney. Occasionally, he’ll get some reps as an end when Clowney is a nuclear bomb detonating and decimating the interior of the line of scrimmage. The lack of lateral quickness and strength when space is confined doesn’t translate to the interior of the field either.
On a defensive line with Watt and Clowney, vulture sacks are available. Just ask Covington and others who have enjoyed this trickle down effect. Watt and Clowney will command the spotlight and force the quarterback into the arms of other rushers. Omenihu plays hard. His motor doesn’t stop. The motor chugs though. He also isn’t a great at running stunts. When he loops inside he runs right into guards, when he loops wide he is met at the point of attack easily. Players who know how run stunts well can walk their way into a couple of sacks by playing with this hellacious duo.
It doesn’t look like there’s underdeveloped potential or athleticism to exploit here either. Omenihu can, should, and probably will get stronger and gain weight, but I wouldn’t expect for him to suddenly develop the lateral quickness or burst needed to become a competent pass rusher. It looks like this is about it for him.
I wouldn’t expect much from Omenihu this year. The team has similar players in Blackson, Dunn, Heath, and a great run defender who can’t rush the passer in Reader. Omenihu may get some time here and there, but he won’t be able to play the run as well as them to get onto the field this season. As a pass rusher, he’s much of the same. He’s a limited athlete who is going to struggle to get to the quarterback. There’s tools here. Long arms. Jump off the snap. A neat little rip when he gets his head across the tackle’s face. But overall he’s going to be locked down against NFL offensive linemen. Eventually, once Houston is done signing their mediocre defensive ends to 4-year $16 million contracts, he may one day replace them and do much of the same.
So to answer the question, Omenihu isn’t any different, he’s just like all the others, made from the same guts and marrow as those before him. He’ll fit in perfectly here.