Throughout the 2018 season, most talk about the defensive line has centered around the all-pro Cameron Jordan, Sheldon Rankins, or rookie Marcus Davenport. But a third-year player rose to the occasion and had a career night against a normally stout offensive line.
David Onyemata had a bit of a coming out party against the Dallas Cowboys, and he chose to do it in prime-time for the whole country to see. It was unfortunate that the Saints were not able to get the win behind the three-sack performance of the defensive tackle, but his play along with the rest of the defense showed the they can win in the trenches against stout teams.
Onyemata won his match ups in multiple ways. Rather it was him stringing together pass-rush moves or just out-powering his man, he was a force to be reckoned with.
On his first sack of the day, Onyemata showed off his strength and flexibility by manhandling guard Xavier Su’a-Filo.
Here, Onyemata lines up in a 2i technique, meaning he lines up with his head on the inside shoulder of the left guard. At the snap, Onyemata will stutter step inside, before using a swipe move in an attempt to clear Su’a-Filo’s hands. The guard does a good job at countering the swipe and is able to get his hands back on Onyemata’s chest. At this point, the guard is in good position but Onyemata will keep fighting and is able to gain leverage and work the guard back into the pocket. Using his own momentum against him, Onyemata gets skinny and bends around the guard to bring down Prescott as the quarterback is stepping up.
Rankins should also get some credit for this sack, as he was the one who forced Prescott to step up into the waiting arms of Onyemata.
The second sack for the third-year defensive tackle came on a 3rd down that saw the Cowboys line up with a running back in the backfield, who will stay in to help with pass protection.
The Saints meanwhile will call a blitz, and have linebackers Alex Anzalone and Demario Davis “sugar” the A-gap. This is when one or two linebackers will line up on the line of scrimmage, between the center and two guards, to make it appear as if they will both blitz. This is a good way to confuse offensive lineman as they are not sure if one, both, or neither linebackers are going to blitz.
Anzalone and Cameron Jordan will both drop back in coverage, while Davis and safety Vonn Bell (off-screen) will both blitz. Defensive end Alex Okafor will loop around Onyemata (white circle) and rush through the A-gap that was vacated by Anzalone. This allows Onyemata an 1-on-1 with the guard.
Unlike the last play where Su’a-Filo is able to counter Onyemata’s pass rush, the guard has no answer for the “cross-chop” that Onyemata uses to clear his hands. The cross-chop is when a defender will use his inside arm to chop down on an offensive lineman’s outside forearm, and will be followed up by another move. In this case, he follows it up with a club move and has an open lane to bring down Prescott.
It wasn’t only in the passing game that Onyemata made his presence felt. He was able to penetrate on run plays and maintain gap integrity to prevent any running lanes for Elliott and Rod Smith to run through.
Lined up as a 3-tech here (outside shoulder of left guard #76), he does a good job at getting his hands on the inside of the guard’s chest plate to gain control. He will then “lock-out” his arms, or in other words, fully extend his arms in order to gain separation from the blocker. This separation makes it easier for Onyemata to read which direction the running back is going in. Once he keys in on Elliott, he will use a “pull” move to use the guard’s momentum against him and pull him downward. You can see the effect of this as the guard is nearly at a 90 degree angle, when Onyemata uses an “arm-over” to get around him. With A.J. Klein filling the front-side gap where the play was supposed to go, Elliott tries to bend the run back inside, where he is met by the defensive tackle and taken down for no gain.
While Onyemata may have stolen the show, the entire front seven did a stellar job at on containing the rushing offense. Tyler Davidson saw his most snaps since week 1 and did a solid job at countering double teams. The linebackers continued to prove that they are a strength of this team and can lock down the second level. The offense should rebound from this and look to seek revenge on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday.