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New Chiefs defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah brings length, leverage and strength to the table

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Steve Spagnuolo and Brendan Daly get another one of the kind of defensive ends they like

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach is an aggressive man. You know it and your mom knows it. And the February 5, 2018 version of myself knew it, too.

Clearly, this immense foresight was the impetus for Arrowhead Pride to bring me back on board... right?

(Editor’s note: Right.)

In all seriousness, I’ve had my eye on Cleveland Browns defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah ever since his 2016 rookie campaign where he impressed in limited snaps as a 3-4 outside linebacker. I thought he was miscast in that role, but after 5.5 sacks, eight tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hits later, I was intrigued.

After the Browns shifted to the 4-3 defense in 2017 and drafted Myles Garrett, there were rumors that Ogbah might be the odd man out in a rotation that included Carl Nassib. An injury robbed him of six games that year, and the questions about Ogbah’s role grew — despite a four-sack, five-TFL and five-QB hit performance over 10 games.

2018 saw his production drop yet again after coming back from a broken foot. He suffered a high ankle sprain and missed two games, posting a career-low three sacks and three TFL. He did have a career-high eight passes broken up and had eight QB hits, but the production was not what the Browns were expecting.

So after acquiring Olivier Vernon this offseason, the writing was on the wall for Ogbah. On Monday, it finally happened: the Chiefs traded backup safety Eric Murray to the Browns for Ogbah in a rare player-for-player swap.

So what do the Chiefs have in Ogbah? Let’s dive into some of his games to see the type of player that he is, and then consider what this means for the Chiefs — and the upcoming draft.


Just like recent acquisition Alex Okafor, Ogbah’s game is about physically dominating the opponent. His length and strength fit Spagnuolo and Brendan Daly’s mold for players along the defensive line, and he knows how to utilize those attributes.

Through multiple games, Ogbah shows good hand usage to gain leverage before resetting and regaining leverage. This allows him to regularly walk blockers into the backfield. These bull rushes are longer-developing — and a distinct change from the kinds of rushers Chiefs fans have grown used to seeing in the past several years — but they’re useful in crushing the pocket and speeding up the quarterback’s timer.

Ogbah consistently won reps with his bull rush, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have some technique and ability to threaten the edge.

Again, Ogbah doesn’t beat the tackle with speed, but with technique and leverage. Long strides carry him up the arc with a target on the tackle’s outside shoulder, and his ability to dip under contact sets him up for a rip to get to the quarterback.

Players who lack flexible hips have to find ways to corner if they want to be successful rushers in the NFL. Ogbah comes equipped with good rush technique to use the tackle against himself and meet at the quarterback’s drop in the pocket. Here, his ball awareness makes for a nice strip-sack while the tackle is holding on for dear life.

The acquisitions of Okafor and Ogbah have spelled out Spagnuolo and Daly’s intentions: they’re going to bring unpredictable pass rushes. Both players exhibit better-than-average ability to loop and stunt from outside or inside positions, which will make the offensive line’s blocking assignments more difficult on a snap-to-snap basis.

While he isn’t the fastest or most explosive rusher, I do like the burst that Ogbah exhibits in space. The stunt shown above highlights this burst. An initial feint to the inside pulls the guard’s eyes to Ogbah, and Garrett drives through the outside shoulder of the guard into the B-gap. The tackle commits to the inside move, and Ogbah slips around the outside and accelerates past the tackle for an easy sack.

But Ogbah isn’t just used for stunts on the inside, and here he takes advantage of a mistake by the right guard. The guard sets up to defend against a bull rush, but Ogbah gets upfield on the outside shoulder, makes himself narrow, and chops the guard’s hands away. This allows him to explode to the quarterback and force an errant throw — even if it did result in a roughing the passer penalty from hands to the helmet while trying to deflect the pass.

Ogbah routinely saw snaps in a 4/4i alignment — inside of the Browns’ other edge defenders. This allowed Cleveland to get more rushers on the field in multiple positions — similar to the NASCAR packages that we’ve seen with the Chiefs defense. His leverage, strength, technique and lateral agility make him a very unpredictable rusher from both the inside and the outside.

One of the things that Spagnuolo wants in his defensive ends is quick play diagnosis and reaction. Okafor has it, and Ogbah flashes it as well.

On this third-and-short, conventional wisdom screams a run play. As the fullback shifts over the left tackle on the snap, Ogbah keys off of the fullback and keeps his eyes in the backfield for the run fake. As the fullback leaks into the flat, Ogbah takes a wide arc to cut off the throwing lane, then makes himself big to swat the ball away.

Because the linebacker late to identify the play and get out in coverage, this could have been a big gain for the offense. But Ogbah’s ability to quickly diagnose the play and take the proper angle stopped what would certainly have been a third-down conversion.

As you’d expect, Ogbah’s proper leverage, strength and length show up in the run game. He sets a hard edge on plays to his side of the field, and he has just enough pursuit ability to track down a running back going away from him when unblocked.

This play shows another way Ogbah wins in the run game with a quick stack and shed on a tight end, and it showcases the power in his hands. He doesn’t get off the snap as quickly as he usually does, but drives his hands into the chest of the blocker to create space and find the running back. When he identifies the proper run fit, he uses his strength to toss the player aside and close the door for a one-yard gain.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

For all the fretting over the Chiefs run defense last year, Steve Spagnuolo and company have made it a point to stop the run this season — even at the cost of losing a large part of their one-on-one pass rush. If they can get creative pressure regularly, the changes made this offseason should give Chiefs fans confidence that this team can stop the run in 2019.


The bottom line

The Chiefs have added two long, strong defensive ends in the past month. With Breeland Speaks and Tanoh Kpassagnon already on the roster, are the Chiefs done adding talent at the EDGE position?

I’d argue that they’re not.

Ogbah is in the last year of his contract and was just traded away for a backup safety. His salary isn’t guaranteed — nor is a starting spot on this roster. Okafor’s new Chiefs contract has a potential get-out as soon as next year, which would save $3 million against the cap.

So even though Speaks and Kpassagnon are cheap players that are still developing — and should get arguably the best coaching of their careers — there’s a lot of faith being placed in them to grow into contributing pass rushers.

What this move does is give Veach some much-needed flexibility in the draft. Before Ogbah’s addition, the Chiefs needed to add a contributing pass rusher. Adding another vet contributor at the position allows Veach to be able to sit on the board early in the draft, rather than feeling like he needs to sell the farm to go up and grab the pass rusher he needs to make the system work.

I do think that the Chiefs will target a pass rusher, and I think they’ll still make it a priority in the top 100 picks of this year’s draft. But Ogbah gives them the flexibility to add to other parts of their defense or bolster the offense if they see value.

Veach likes to keep his options open. Monday’s move allowed him to do just that — at the cost of a backup safety.


KC Draft Guide

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