(Editor's Note: Dan Turner, a journalist from England, has come across the pond for the second straight training camp, to get a closer look at America's Team. Throughout camp, Dan (@dtsturner) will provide some insight on several rookies, including fellow Brit Efe Obada.)
OXNARD, Calif. -- Life must be a little surreal for Efe Obada.
In the last five months, he's gone from working in a warehouse in England, to playing for one of the biggest sports franchises in the world, and lining up with and against some of the greatest sportsmen on the planet. Before yesterday, the last time he wore pads would have been in the Brit Bowl, between the London Warriors and London Blitz in September 2014.
Obada only played five games for the London Warriors last year, in a league where statistics aren't even recorded, so even he doesn't know how many sacks he accumulated for them. His game film at the Warriors isn't bad for someone so new to the game, but it's highly unlikely that he was signed for that reason alone.
The more likely reason Obada was signed was due to his physical makeup and athletic ability. He stands at 6-6, 265 pounds, with an 83-inch wingspan with 35.5-inch arms. To put this in comparison, Randy Gregory had the largest wingspan among edge rushers in the 2015 draft class, at 81.9 inches, and Danielle Hunter had the longest arms, at 34.3 inches.
Quite frankly, he's perfect for the position.
The word "athletic" gets thrown around a lot, especially through draft season. Therefore, it's quite tough to find the hyperbole required to explain just how athletic Obada is. He recorded a 4.63-second 40-yard dash, with 1.53-second 10-yard split. The 40 time was good, especially for a man of his size, but it's the 10-yard split that is the astonishing number (it's also more important for defensive linemen than the 40). The time of 1.53 was quicker than all but six players at the 2015 Combine, all of whom were either wide receivers or defensive backs.
It's been tough to evaluate individual players so far, as the pads only went on for the first time yesterday. One thing that is noticeable though is how tough they are being with Obada. They are treating him exactly the same way as they treat veterans. I asked him how quickly he's learning the position, to which he replied, "not quick enough."
Whether it's getting off the ball, or attacking the bags, whenever Obada doesn't do something the way Rod Marinelli wants it done, he's faced with the same language that the older guys get. It must be hard for him, but he did acknowledge that he needs it.
In general, Obada's weaknesses stem from lack of experience. There are two areas where he has struggled so far -- his get-off and pad level. He seems to be reacting to the offensive tackle, as opposed to the snap count or ball. This is fine for two-gapping, but as a primarily weakside defensive end, he needs to be able to get upfield, win the edge, and get to the quarterback. It's natural for a newcomer at the position to do this, as he's trying to avoid drawing offside penalties, but it will be hard for him to truly show off his athleticism if he can't win off the snap.
In terms of pad level, Obada is getting stood up too easily, which leads to him getting stalemated at the line. Especially in the run game, it means he can get single-blocked too easily and allow another offensive lineman to get to the second level, or double-block someone else. At 6-6, he needs to work extremely hard to maintain knee bend and get low enough to win leverage battles. This is a similar issue that many top draft prospects have, so again, it would be harsh to criticize him for it, but it's an obvious flaw that needs to be rectified before he sees playing time.
On the bright side, there are other aspects of his game that he seems to be picking up quickly, or just had in him all the time. The most obvious is how good his anchor is. For someone who plays too tall and often lets blockers into his body, it is extremely impressive that he's able to hold up at the line, and not be moved by bigger offensive lineman. That tells me that functional strength isn't an issue. The other impressive trait he has is hand placement, as he does seem to be able to get his hands inside. With the natural length advantage he has also, this could make him into a powerful rusher when he improves his pad level. His effort can't be faulted either.[embeddedad0]
Make no mistake about it, Obada does have a long way to go, and it may be too much of an ask for him to improve enough in one month of training camp and preseason to make the 53-man roster.
Obada will know that the odds are long, but he's dealt with long odds before. Don't mistake the size of the obstacle that he'll have to overcome here, but you also shouldn't underestimate the intrinsic fight which this young man possesses.