What’s the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Well, the Buffalo Bills had a heck of a run in 2020 by signing every former Carolina Panthers player they could get their hands on so why change that strategy now? The latest Carolina Bills, ahem...Buffalo Panther. No, wait—that’s not it. The latest player to join the Bills is International Player Pathway Program participant Efe Obada. A rotational player with Carolina, Obada put up respectable stats. Let’s hit the film and see what to expect.
When I say “pretty good” in the GIF I mean it. If given a little more time, perhaps Efe Obada drives his man back further and goes beyond pretty good. A big reason for this play selection though is after the interaction at the line. Obada sees the ball thrown and runs toward it. This has been a common trend among players signed in the McBeane era. Nonstop hustle.
There’s an old idiom in martial arts, typically attributed to swordplay. Paraphrased, it’s something like “The most dangerous opponent is the one who hasn’t been trained.” It’s an idiom not an adage because you can’t take it literally of course, but the concept shows up in the case of Efe Obada who didn’t start playing football until the age of 21. Seriously, check out his story here.
Back to the idiom, the idea is that two trained opponents facing off have spent a lot of time optimizing and learning specific techniques. Attack, counterattack, counter to the counterattack. This process of optimization leads to these opponents bringing with them a finite list of moves/techniques as everything is practiced to the point of muscle memory. Now the untrained opponent doesn’t have ingrained behaviors. After all, they might try anything. If you’ve spent your whole life preparing for A, B, C, or D imagine your surprise when the person across from you throws a 6 at you.
The Untrained Opponent came back to me over and over watching Efe Obada. On this play he starts off with a fairly standard jab/shove to the chest. But as he moves around his arm looks weird. Pay close attention to his opponent’s reaction (Ryan Groy). He looks like he just saw a 6.
We see similar here. Obada puts his hand up quick by his face but then makes contact before he establish any sort of finesse moves. He has great leverage and drives Groy back. It looks weird but it works.
And another one. I almost did a still right after the first contact but didn’t want to come across as picking on Obada. There’s a brief moment where he turns the dance clumsy. That’s his comfort zone though, and not the linemen across from him. When they re-engage, Obada places his right hand well and starts winning the battle.
I’m gonna keep hammering this home. That initial swat is not textbook, but it’s pretty good. More importantly it’s effective. Does he look awkward on the recovery? Yes he does. But he’s still getting the job done.
As noted above, it’s an idiom because you can’t take it literally. An untrained opponent can get you by surprise but the reality is the “surprise” is a technique that’s not optimized. Here, flaws in his stance limit Obada’s ability to push and he’s negated from the play.
I keep talking about “untrained” but Obada is now well beyond zero training. There’s a lot of flashes where he shows off how much he’s learned. In contrast to the last play, here the technique is night and day. He’s even getting his hands up with good timing.
First the hard conversation. Efe Obada has an uphill battle to get beyond the “rotational player” status he found himself in while playing for Carolina. Experience matters and the usual rate of learning isn’t good enough in his case. He needs to be an outlier when it comes to development. We definitely all know it can happen, but if it does we need to see it for what it was—very odd.
Now for the more uplifting part of the summary. I didn’t get the impression one time that Obada didn’t belong in the NFL. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised at how effective he was in general. Right now he’s winning on physical ability and determination. He’s also flashing some skills that suggest he’s working his *** off to learn and improve. I should also add he’s doing this all over the line, bringing that versatility head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier love.
Put simply, Efe Obada has a nice baseline to work with and plenty of room to grow.