Throughout head coach Sean McDermott’s first season as head coach of the Buffalo Bills he emphasized the importance of character when acquiring players that would help build a winning culture. So when the team signed defensive end Owa Odighizuwa last week after a few tenuous seasons with the New York Giants in which the former third-round draft pick was suspended, contemplated leaving football and dealt with numerous injuries, it led many to scratch their heads.
However, in order to understand the signing, it’s important to look back at some of the things McDermott preached in his first year in Buffalo – family, teamwork, accountability..the list of cliches goes on. But the team certainly bought in.
Hardship to success
Odighizuwa hasn’t had it easy. Born in Ohio, the defensive end lived in Nigeria for five years before coming back to the United States, where he lived in Virginia and Oregon before attending UCLA. When he was 10-years old, his father committed a triple homicide and is currently serving three life sentences.
Sure, Owa could’ve given up.He was a team captain for the Bruins and graduated early with a degree in philosophy. He was the 2012 Maggie Gilbert Academic Achievement Award winner.
In 2013, he redshirted after undergoing surgery on both hips.
But despite all of this, he bounced back in his senior season, racking up 59 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and four pass breakups en route to being named second-team All Pac-12.
Freak athlete waiting to be molded
If you play ‘Madden’ and create a player, chances are that virtual character will resemble Odihizuwa. Standing 6-foot-3, 267-pounds with 33 3/4″ arms and massive 11-inch hands, his movement skills are downright terrifying. At the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, he posted the best numbers among defensive ends in the 40-yard dash (4.62-seconds), vertical leap (39-inches), broad jump (10-foot-7 inches), the short shuttle (4.19-seconds) and ran an 11.75-second 60-yard shuttle.
To put those numbers into perspective, since 2015, only Vic Beasley, Bud Dupree, and Myles Garrett have posted equal or better SPARQ scores than Odighizuwa. Interestingly, he has the same exact score as FSU’s Josh Sweat in this year’s Scouting Combine. For those interested in NIKE’s SPARQ formula – it measures a players athleticism by outputting a single score and Zach Whitman does a fantastic job breaking it down at 3sigmaathlete.com
Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane covet players that are versatile and have something to play for outside of a check. We don’t know the exact details of what went down in that Giants locker room, but it’s fair to say that it wasn’t the most team-friendly atmosphere in the world. Second – he’s a low-risk, high-reward signing that doesn’t count against the compensatory pick formula.
Third? He can ball.
At UCLA, Owa was utilized up and down the line of scrimmage due to his size and strength and he simply dominated.
Here are two consecutive plays against Utah. First, he’s lined up as a traditional defensive end. He sets the edge, sheds the tackle and brings down th running back for a loss. Next, he’s in a one-gapping technique and his burst is simply too quick for the offensive linemen to handle and he makes another huge play.
In the next play, he executes a stunt and stonewalls the running back before can cross the line of scrimmage. It is an incredible show of athletic ability, strength and instincts.
Despite what his workout numbers might suggest, Odighizuwa is a better run defender than he is as a pass rusher. However, he still uses his athleticism and strength to be a disruptive force in the passing game. Here are two plays against Virginia that show that skill. In the first rep, he flat out embarrasses the left tackle with a bullrush right into the quarterback’s lap, forcing a quick throwaway.
On the next rep, he beats him cleanly and gets a hand on the pass, resulting in an interception that is returned for a score.
This is a fine signing by the Bills, who had major issues getting after the quarterback and stopping the run last season. Owa has a high ceiling and certainly could be a player that needs a change of scenery to reach his full potential, if healthy.