On Tuesday evening, reports broke that the Kansas City Chiefs made their first defensive addition of the 2023 offseason.
Former San Francisco 49ers pass rusher Charles Omenihu will be getting after quarterbacks for Kansas City in 2023, coming off a season where he set a career-high in sacks (4.5), tackles (20) and tied his career mark for quarterback hits with 16.
The question is, where will Omenihu be lining up to fire off and hunt for sacks? Last year, he lined up in the A-gap, B-gap or directly over the offensive tackle on 44% of his snaps — being used primarily as a situational, inside pass rusher to make his impact on the starting defense. It’s a role previously held by edge rusher Arden Key, who moved on to become a dynamic rusher for the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.
Charles Omenihu at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine:— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) March 15, 2023
85.5” Wingspan (97th percentile for DL)
36” Arms (97th percentile)
36.5” Vertical (91st percentile)
Came into the league a very long, explosive player — and still is one. Fits the #Chiefs very well
In Kansas City, Omenihu’s role may be expanded beyond what it has been so far in his four-year NFL career. The incentives built into his contract suggest the Chiefs are giving him a chance to prove he can take that step — and his physical, athletic profile fits what the team looks for in their starters at the position.
I looked at his play in 2022 to learn more about what he’s bringing to the table:
To reiterate, San Francisco weaponized Omenihu the most as an inside rusher on obvious pass downs — allowing his defensive end traits to overwhelm guards that may or may not be getting help from a center or tackle.
The 49ers primarily used Charles Omenihu as a situational inside rusher, letting him overwhelm Gs with his get off and length— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) March 15, 2023
He combines a nasty chop w/ an ability to rip through and bend like a true edge rusher pic.twitter.com/aizWyezSci
Omenihu’s first step is the initial advantage he gets to work with, firing off quickly and instantly putting pressure on the blocker to get ready for engagement. That speed combines with a violent, thought-out rush move that gets him into the pocket if he doesn’t get caught up in the muck.
He constantly chops at the hands and swipes them away effectively, building off of that with a bend around the corner that guards can’t keep up with. He also understands how to set up his counter, ripping across and through blockers after initially threatening to hand fight.
When SF did let Omenihu rush off the edge, he shows off the hand moves -- but also the flexibility to bend up & tighten the pocket if he can't win initially pic.twitter.com/vMJ2uw9POE— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) March 15, 2023
Those same moves appear when he is asked to play from a traditional edge-rushing alignment. The hand games were still effective on the outside, but his flexibility around the arc shows up as he works through the tackle. He can tighten the pocket with it, using an impressive forward lean and staying balanced through the rush.
Omenihu is heavier than the typical defensive end on paper, listed at 280 pounds. That said, he appeared lighter to me than on tape in 2022; I believe he was playing closer to 270 but can add that weight back.
Omenihu translates his explosiveness off the snap to power well on bull rushes. Does a good job keeping good pad level at his size, brings a violent pop to a 1v1 when he gets a step or 2 pic.twitter.com/wWvZvUGeH8— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) March 15, 2023
Omenihu was moving too well to be 280, in my look. The power he generated on his bull rushes may be where that weight shows up. He is very good at coming off with good leverage, good hand placement on his bull rushes — then driving legs and long arming for penetration. It allows him to crush the pocket, whether he’s playing from the inside or outside.
To me, Omenihu looked light as a run defender — getting controlled by offensive tackles on blocks more often than I’d like to see. He will make up for it with the quick first step and a powerful punch, but it may be a reason he was not playing more traditional snaps for San Francisco.
In KC, Omenihu will be lining up at DE in their base sets. His quickness and strong punch can make him a tone setter, but KC may ask him to add some weight so he has a little more anchor if they want him playing more run downs pic.twitter.com/OXdGodlYfS— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) March 15, 2023
Yet, Omenihu made plays even in run defense; if he faced a tight end on the edge of a run play, he was bullying him and making a play on the ball. He also shows a few quality snaps of avoiding the kick-out block by slipping through, disrupting a run in that way.
On two occasions last season, Omenihu helped make a game-changing play in a significant win for the 49ers.
The 36" arms show up in Omenihu's rushes, constantly reaching around blocks and looking to make a game-changing play on the ball— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) March 15, 2023
Last yr, he caused this game-changing fumble in the playoff game, plus forced the interception to seal their W over LAC pic.twitter.com/Hga6ziTbt2
In the Week 10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers, Omenihu fights through a blocker relentlessly, reaching out and disrupting the throw enough to force an interception late in the fourth quarter — ending the game.
In the Wild Card round win over the Seattle Seahawks, Omenihu came around on a stunt and reached his hand in just enough to poke the ball out and force a game-changing fumble; the 49ers would put the game away from that point.
It’s a credit to Omenihu’s length and continuous effort as a rusher. Because of that elite size, he can reach around blockers and get closer to the quarterback than other rushers.
The bottom line
The Chiefs needed to add to their defensive end group in some capacity. They could still probably use an investment through the draft as well, but Omenihu gives them an immediate contributor to creating disruption as a pass rusher. He projects to be in any of the Chiefs’ best pass-rush packages.
He gives defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo another layer of unpredictability with those packages, something he and the Kansas City coaching staff have clearly valued in the position.