Yes, it’s only the preseason. Two sacks from a former undrafted player, though, are definitely noteworthy.
This past weekend, defensive end Louis Nzegwu notched two quarterback takedowns for the Carolina Panthers in their preseason opener against the Chicago Bears. As a roster longshot, that type of impact – especially in only 15 snaps – is a great way to get coaches’ attention.
Before he landed with the Panthers, the 6’4’’, 255-pound Nzegwu was a player who looked the part but could never translate his superb physical tools to production.
Despite running a 4.6 40-yard dash and putting up a 41.5-inch vertical at the Wisconsin Pro Day last year, Nzegwu didn’t have the stats to back up his elite athleticism. During his senior season with the Badgers, he racked up only 38 total tackles, 4.5 sacks and one forced fumble. The measurables are there, but the production doesn’t match. Hence, Nzegwu went undrafted in 2012.
Now in a position to make the Panthers’ regular season roster, Nzegwu must flip the switch and prove that he can put all of the pieces together from a mental standpoint. He needs to put in the time off the field and be willing to do everything in his power to make himself the best defensive end possible. The tools are there, but Nzegwu needs to learn how to use them efficiently.
The reality is that Nzegwu has the raw talent to be a disruptive force in the NFL. With blazing speed for the position and the natural pass-rushing ability of a starting edge rusher, the intrigue is through the roof. Still, the mental drive is a concern.
Like all NFL hopefuls who played well in the first week of preseason action, Nzegwu still has plenty to prove before he deserves a roster spot. If he can continue to give offensive coordinators headaches throughout the next three weeks, though, Nzegwu could win a spot on the Panthers’ 53-man roster.
If anything, the practice squad could be an avenue to continue his development.