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All-22 year in review: Buffalo Bills DE Efe Obada

A look at the team’s other international pathway player

After an effective season as a rotational player for the Carolina Panthers, it was only natural that Efe Obada would find his way to the Buffalo Bills. My initial analysis projected Obada to continue as a rotational player in Buffalo. More specifically, I felt that Obada’s raw athletic ability set a nice floor on the line. His lack of experience (he didn’t start playing until 2014) means his ceiling is unknown, but will require a lot of effort to reach. Let’s check in on his progress.


Play 1

This is a great example of a high floor set by Efe Obada’s athletic ability. He beats his man to the edge, forcing the run back inside simply because he’s much faster. The initial contact goes well for Obada as well. He splits his opponent’s hands, ensuring he’s not caught up in the block.

Play 2

I’m pretty convinced the offensive lineman was deliberately allowing Obada to go by to take him away from the play as that’s a pretty common technique. Obada is through so fast though that he’s nearly in position to make the play at the handoff—which I do NOT think was deliberate. Additionally, when I did the frame-by-frame, Obada wasn’t incredibly fast off the snap. What you’re seeing is the product of acceleration, rather than anticipation.

Play 3

I have the attempt to split the double team highlighted for this one. The first move Obada tries is a bit of a haymaker with his right hand. This does push the lineman to his left a little more left. That move is pretty commonplace and it’s modestly effective. Take a look again for the left hand. He does a compact...cat scratch? Mini-swat? I’m not trying to pick on the move as it makes sense from a physics perspective. It’s simply unconventional and a bit odd-looking the way Obada attempts it. You see little hallmarks with Obada like this that drive home his newness to the sport.

Also, look at that tackle at the end! Obada sprints back into the play and makes sure the run is over.

Play 4

Here’s another of those little hallmarks. Usually with a swim move using the right hand you’d see the left hand punch the shoulder first. You’d also expect his right hip/foot to follow the swim. Instead, it looks like the left hand is either frozen or pulling. Obada’s right foot stays put. Think of a swim move as literally swimming. The goal is to pull yourself forward. Obada’s right arm is doing the motion, but the rest of his body is standing still.

The result is that the arm gets draped over his opponent and stuck. Remember the key philosophy on the line. The low man wins. The way this move goes down, Obada ensures he’s not the low man.

Play 5

I know it’s against a running back, but Obada is barely slowed down here. Was it pure power? Not quite. Take a look at the angle of attack. Obada goes a bit wide rather than using a head-on collision. The result is that when he shoves, it’s to the shoulder/side rather than the chest. The result is a more effective burst.

Play 6

This was a move I really liked seeing. Obada’s right hand grasps near the shoulder. He then appears to do a slight tug to pull the shoulder toward him, then a forceful shove to drive it back. Timed well, the opponent needs to respond to the tug by resisting backward. When they do, the shove is amplified by their own force. I think this rep went well in that regard. Though Obada didn’t make a play, he’s slipping through toward the quarterback and is able to get a hand up to boot.

Play 7

The move Obada pulls is frankly very odd. When he’s about to hit his opponent he pulls his arms in and basically just bounces off the guy. It’s lowkey genius as a change of pace because it’s harder for the lineman to find any jersey to grab. It’s certainly effective here as James Hurst is barely a speed bump. When Obada comes around the edge, his hand moves lightning quick to help get the sack.


Summary

I feel pretty similarly about Efe Obada as I did at the beginning of the season. Obada is succeeding based on pure physical ability, which is borderline miraculous in the NFL. His lack of experience shows, and unless he can significantly close the talent gap with his peers, he might be hard pressed to break free of the “rotational player” label. There are some signs he’s been working a ton on his technique.

By no means would I be disappointed if the Buffalo Bills decided to be the team to see if they can get him to his ceiling. Personally I’m rooting for the man. He’s fun to watch and already effective with his limited opportunities. If he can have a breakthrough, I think he would be a nightmare for opposing offenses.

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