Last week, I broke down Falcons free agent pickup in running back Steven Jackson. This week it’s time to look at the team’s other big off-season addition in defensive end Osi Umenyiora.
Umenyiora has big shoes to fill, because most are expecting him to take the mantle from John Abraham as the team’s top and most feared pass rusher. Abraham gave the Falcons six and a half excellent seasons, logging 68.5 sacks, which tops their all-time list among official stats. Claude Humphrey, unofficially has 94.5 career sacks in a Falcons uniform, but his career ended before sacks became an official stat in 1982.
Umenyiora is coming off a down year in New York with only 6 sacks, tying his career low since he became a starter in 2004. But the Falcons are optimistic that he can have a resurgence with a change in scenery, particularly given that Atlanta is the place that Osi calls home in the off-season. Similar to Abraham, a native of South Carolina, after moving down from the Big Apple, playing in front of friends and family was perhaps a factor in his success.
But first we should take a look at Osi’s skillset. Here’s my breakdown, with a grading system based on a ten-point scale: 1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite.
Strength: 5.5 – He knows how to convert speed to power in order to bull rush off the edge. He shows the ability to use that power move to work the unsuspecting tackle back into the quarterback. But he’s not overly strong and struggles to disengage from blocks, particularly in the run game. His lack of strength shows when he is facing bigger tackles that are also technically sound.
Quickness: 7.5 – Osi still possesses a good first step off the edge that is maximized when he can line up in wider techniques. When he can pin his ears back, he is a formidable speed rusher off the edge that does most of his damage that way. But he no longer has the explosive burst he once did and isn’t a threat to beat the better tackles in the league purely with his speed.
Pass Rush: 8.0 – He makes his money as a pass rusher that has an array of moves to get to the quarterback. As mentioned before, he shows he can bull rush from time to time. He also has showcased an inside counter move, which is often a spin. It’s not quite on par with say Dwight Freeney, but it can be effective from time to time. He’s at his most comfortable rushing the quarterback when his ears are pinned back and he can go out and hunt using his edge speed.
Point of Attack: 5.0 – Umenyiora is not particularly strong or good at the point of attack. While he can be effective using his hands to disengage from tight ends and make stops there, most of his plays against the run come in pursuit and out in space. He’s not a guy you want trying to hold or set the edge when teams run at him, because he rarely makes plays there.
Recognition: 6.0 – At times he seems to be a bit too dialed in trying to get upfield and will misread some plays, such as draws and screens. He has enough athleticism to drop into coverage and be effective in the flat and able to keep things in front of him, but he doesn’t have quite the experience or awareness to think he’d be very effective doing that to a large degree.
Motor: 5.5 – Osi’s motor seems to run hot and cold at times. There are times when he’s dialed in and he’s running all over the field, and there are other times where you see him jogging quite a bit and seems disinterested, especially when he’s asked to try and play the run a lot. It’s not to suggest his motor is poor, it’s just that he’s not going to be relentless and is more willing to pick and choose his spots.