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Defensive Spotlight: Charles Omenihu of the Houston Texans

Houston Texans v Kansas City ChiefsListed at 6’5″ 280 lbs, Houston Texans rookie Charles Omenihu has become an interior presence on the defensive line and has worked his way into the team’s rotation.

If you followed the Big 12 conference the last few years, you would have taken note of the four-year defensive end playing for the Texas Longhorns. From 2015-2018, Omenihu amassed 115 tackles and 16.5 sacks, including 9.5 in his senior campaign. He was named Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2018 and first team All-Big 12.

It is almost hard to believe that the Texan’s were able to snag the Houston born Omenihu in the 5th round with the 161st overall pick in this years draft.

Fast forward to week 6 of the 2019 NFL season. The Houston Texans are trailing the Kansas City Chiefs 17-16 just before the end of the first half.

One play after a Juan Thornhill interception of Deshaun Waston sets up the Chiefs at their own 20 yard line, Omenihu makes his presence felt. Pre-snap, Chiefs quarterback  Patrick Mahomes croaks out a change in protection to his offensive line. Something clicks for Omenihu and he realizes he is left one-on-one with the center. Despite being assigned to stuff the run, the rookie recognizes the play as a pass nearly immediately.

“When they said a certain word, I knew I was going to be rushing against the center. I knew I had a chance to convert, but I was playing run the whole time. I extended out, and when I felt like he was soft, just flipped my hips and started running. I saw the quarterback. I knew the short distance to get to him. And just happened to make that play.”” Charles Omenihu.

“That play” resulted in a strip sack, Omenihu’s 2nd of the year, and led to a Watson rushing score just moments later giving the Texans the lead heading into half-time.  Ultimately, with the 31-24 victory over the Chiefs, the Texans now control the AFC South and the number 2 seed in the Conference.

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Despite only playing in 4 of the last 6 games, Omenihu’s 2 sacks are tied for 19th and his 2 forced fumbles are tied for 2nd among all other defensive lineman in the NFL.  Through that time he boasts a 83.6 PFF overall grade while only seeing the field half of the time. Here are his snap percentages in the 4 games he has been active: 43%, 43%, 51%, and 28%.

Inactive versus NO and CAR due to issues with his knee, Omenihu has been on the field in games where Carlos Watkins has not. Primarily a back-up behind Angelo Blackson (176 snaps), Omenihu is beginning to find a home on the interior defensive line. His lowly 116 snaps pales in comparison to JJ Watt’s 385, but he’s been getting the job done in a limited role.

“He’s a good guy,” O’Brien said of Omenihu, “He plays hard. He works hard. It’s very important to him. There are certain things that he does really well and certain things he knows he has to improve on. He’s got to improve on keying the ball, not jumping off-sides. He has to improve in certain areas where, relative to run and pass, where we align him, certain techniques. But he is a very active player and a guy that loves football. He plays hard.”

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Playing hard will get the attention of the remainder of offenses Omenihu is set to face, and that’s exactly what the Texans want. It plays right into their plans of freeing up play-makers like Whitney Mercilus and J.J. Watt.

Follow Miles Peacock @ff_peacock on Twitter

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