Loch Ness, Bigfoot, Sasquatch - All Folklore Legends, and New Orleans may now have its own to add to that list. The 29 tackles, two sacks, and one pass deflection that David Onyemata finished the year with can be incredibly misleading.
He didn’t fill up the stat sheet by any means, but it doesn’t mean he wasn’t effective. There were plenty of Cam Jordan sacks where Onyemata was the second guy to get there, and quite a few where he was the first to cause the pressure like the one below.
Much like the Tweet describes, you can see the 6-foot-4, 300-pound Lagos, Nigeria native has began to develop a move-set. This was missing from his game as a rookie, and only goes to prove how much of a sophomore leap the second-year defensive tackle has taken, as he’s learned more of the intricacies of the game.
“Understanding the game from the point of view, you get security from the pass and the run,” Onyemata said. “Trying to tell presnap reads and things like that have improved greatly for me.”
Not bad for a guy who was initially looked at as a developmental prospect that would have a significant learning curve.
What I’ve been most impressed with is his nasty play on the field. For someone who Sean Payton described as “warm and bright”, he has the ability to flip that switch and become a different player as Payton himself found out during his rookie season.
So Payton said he was “shocked” -- and seemed a little pleasantly surprised -- when he pulled apart the bodies during a rare in-season practice scuffle and found Onyemata right in the middle of it.
Following the Week 11 injury to Alex Okafor, Oneymata was asked to play his biggest role to date - starting the final 6 games of the season at DT next to Tyeler Davison, while Sheldon Rankins moonlighted at defensive end in base packages.
During this time, his production saw a significant increase, and you could see the impact he began to have on the game. Who can forget this bone-crushing sack of Cam Newton as an example of the raw power and explosiveness he plays with?
He’s ferocious (in My Mike Tyson voice).
There were several flashes of dominance, as not many people realized he was Nick Fairley insurance a year before the Saints truly needed it. Taken in the 4th round of the 2016 NFL Draft following a trade up they nabbed him at the time just in case Fairley (who was on a one-year deal) didn’t pan out.
The objective was to add talented depth that could be groomed, but even as a rookie Onyemata showed flashes of an ability to be more than just depth.
Insert Ryan Nielsen, who is a tactician, and Onyemata’s technique improved in year two, as he took a significant leap in effectiveness. Said improvement was noticeable in not only his pass rush, but also his run defense as you can see below.
During the season, Cam Jordan had this to say about the young defensive tackle.
“His second year playing 11-man football, clearly there’s going to be jumps,” defensive end Cam Jordan said. “He’s been making strides. The last couple games he’s really turned on his pass-rushing prowess that I don’t know if I was aware of. I knew he had the potential to do it, but he’s clearly trying to go beyond his expectations.”
If you can surprise Cameron Jordan, then you’ve got something going for you, and If Onyemta’s production and skill level continue to ascend at his current pace, we could look back on his first two years as the birth of the Manitoba Monster.