David Onyemata overlooked on list of best NFL interior defensive linemen

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There are high expectations for David Onyemata in 2021. The veteran defensive tackle entered the NFL as an athletic project out of Canada, but took well to coaching and developed a passion for the game that’s made him one of pro football’s better interior defensive linemen in recent years. Not according to Touchdown Wire, though.

Our colleagues over at Touchdown Wire put together a list of the NFL’s 11 best defensive tackles, and Onyemata is nowhere to be found. But one of his predecessors is, in Chicago Bears big man Akiem Hicks (who, ironically, landed with the Saints after also playing college football north of the border).

It’s a bit of a surprise. Onyemata posted a career-best 6.5 sacks and 49 pressures (per Pro Football Focus) last season, third-best on the team in each category. The Saints lost his co-starter in Sheldon Rankins as well as nose tackle Malcom Brown, and Onyemata is expected to do a lot to help make up for those departures — not including the loss of edge rusher Trey Hendrickson, New Orleans’ sacks leader who placed barely ahead of him in total pressures.

Other analysts are giving Onyemata his flowers, though. Establish The Run’s Brandon Thorn does a great job charting line play across the NFL, and he credited Onyemata with the second-best rate of high quality sacks per snaps played (99.8) in the league last year among his peers, trailing only Los Angeles Rams superstar Aaron Donald.

With even more minutes to go around in New Orleans now that Rankins and Brown have moved on, Onyemata will have every opportunity to attract a brighter spotlight. He’s still just 28 and has plenty of room to grow with Ryan Nielsen returning to coach the Saints defensive line another year.

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