What Charles Omenihu offers the San Francisco 49ers

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The NFL trade deadline looms, and some organizations are finding ways to add to their rosters and potentially bolster playoff chances. Other teams are looking to build for the future, by moving players and adding draft capital for the next draft cycle.

One of the teams in the second category is the Houston Texans. After trading Mark Ingram last week to the New Orleans Saints, the organization has made another move, sending young pass rusher Charles Omenihu to the San Francisco 49ers.

Omenihu was drafted in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL draft, after a draft cycle that saw him generate a bit of buzz in the weeks leading up to the draft. Often, buzz does not translate into a draft spot, nor NFL success. Over his short stint in Houston, Omenihu recorded seven sacks, three as a rookie in 2019 and four last season.

So what are the 49ers getting?

Potential.

This season, despite not recording a sack, Omenihu has notched 17 quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. Diving into those plays illustrates a pass rusher who can play on the edge or in the interior, and who brings strength, power and a high motor to the table.

We can start with this play from Houston’s Week 1 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars:

Omenihu aligns as a 5-technique, on the outside shoulder of the right tackle, and in a four-point stance. Off the snap he slants to the inside, using a quick first step to get leverage against the tackle and slice into the B-gap. He then fights through a double-team, as the guard fans to the outside and tries to help the tackle. Undaunted, Omenihu works his way towards quarterback Trevor Lawrence and forces a high through under pressure, which falls incomplete.

On this play against the Arizona Cardinals, Omenihu aligns as more of a 4-technique, head up on the right tackle. His quickness off the snap shows up again as he slices to the inside and collapses the pocket:

The pressure from Omenihu forces quarterback Kyler Murray off the spot, and while the quarterback tries to scramble, he is eventually brought down by Jonathan Greenard for the sack. Omenihu’s quick move to the inside and interior penetration first threw off the timing of the route, as Murray had to vacate the pocket quickly, and led to the sack.

Omenihu’s quick first step to the inside was a factor in this sack of Murray from that Week 7 meeting:

The defender starts in a wide alignment, on the outside of the wing tight end to the right side of the offense. But as we saw on the two previous examples, he slices to the inside on what looks to be a Pirate stunt, with the end (Omenihu) and the defensive tackle slanting to the inside while the nose tackle loops around them to the edge.

When Omenihu slides to the inside, he takes on both the guard and the tackle. Despite the double-team block, he powers through them both to again force Murray off the spot. DeMarcus Walker, the looping defender, eventually gets home to clean the play up with a sack.

Looking back at last season, the Texans even used Omenihu aligned over the center in some pass rush situations, letting him work against centers and guards in the interior. On this 3rd and 6 play against the Baltimore Ravens, Omenihu aligns as a 0-technique, head up on the center. He attacks into the A-Gap between the center and the right guard, and fights his way to Lamar Jackson for the sack:

Then there is this sack against Ryan Tannehill and the Tennessee Titans, where Omenihu aligns as a 3-technique, outside the left shoulder of the guard, and gets home with a cross-chop move along the outside of the guard and into the B-Gap:

So far, all of the plays we have looked at feature Omenihu either slicing to the inside using that quick first step, or aligning on the inside. There are also examples of him operating on the edge, and working to the outside. While the bulk of his success has come with him either aligning on the interior or slanting that way, there is potential for him off the edge.

Take this play against the New England Patriots from 2020, working against left tackle Isaiah Wynn:

Omenihu is shows impressive technique here with his hands, fighting with Wynn around the arc and preventing the left tackle from getting into his frame at any point. The defender then flattens his path towards the quarterback, showing good bend around the edge, and he forces Cam Newton off his spot. Newton’s eventual pass attempt is off the mark, and falls incomplete.

Or take this example against Green Bay from last season, as he again works to the outside against the left tackle:

Omenihu uses a long-arm technique to try and control the LT, as he drives his way towards Aaron Rodgers. He gets close enough that the QB bails the pocket and away from Omenihu, but the defender disengages from the tackle and tracks Rodgers down, getting in a shot on the QB and creating an incompletion.

The 49ers do have some productive players off the edges, including Nick Bosa and Dee Ford. Omenihu offers them some depth on the edge, but also a player who can align inside and work against guards and centers, as we have seen. Putting him in some sub packages with Bosa and Ford on the outside might be what the 49ers are envisioning. That would create some potential favorable matchups for him in the interior, and give the 49ers that inside pressure that can be disruptive for opposing offenses to handle.

Plus, quarterbacks hate that. And if you, as a defensive coordinator or player, are doing thins that QBs hate, that’s usually a good thing.