After being a starter at the right defensive end position for the first 13 games and playing almost every single down, 32-year-old Osi Umenyiora’s new role as a situational pass rusher not only benefits his game, but is very helpful to the Atlanta Falcons as well.
When the Falcons allowed one of their best pass rushers to walk in John Abraham, the team signed Umenyiora to a two-year contract worth $8.5 million. Since he arrived in Atlanta, Umenyiora has delivered in his first year with the Falcons with 44 total tackles, three forced fumbles, one interception and a team-leading 7.5 sacks.
For the most part of his career, Umenyiora has been a starter and was once considered one of the premier pass rushers during his days with the New York Giants that led to one of the greatest Super Bowl victories in recent years. Against the Washington Redskins, however, Umenyiora was in an unfamiliar position, playing in only 27 snaps as a situational pass-rusher.
In his new reserve role, according to defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, Umenyiora looks rejuvenated in terms of energy and looks fresher when he is out in the field.
“I thought he did an outstanding job in the game when he did go in,” Nolan said of Umenyiora via ESPN. “He was fresher. He was better prepared for the third down because of that. You know, when you play every down, it can wear on you.”
Although Umenyiora still desires to be a full-time starter, he is fine with his new role, as he continues to make an impact. Even though the defensive end was only in the game for 27 snaps, he made good use of his playing time by recording a sack and one forced fumble.
With Umenyiora looking fresher and healthier in his new role, it benefits both sides in terms of performance and results. The biggest reward, however, is not what he can do on the field for the Falcons, but it is his leadership off the field that helps impact the younger guys in a positive way.
“A lot of guys have benefited from his presence,” Nolan said. “I wouldn’t say he’s Mister Go-Around Vocal, tell guys what to do at all. But I think when a young guy wants to know or wants to watch somebody who’s a pro and who shows respect and gets a lot of respect, Osi would be the guy to look at.”
As the Falcons continue to prepare for next season, this new role may help the Falcons not only extend Umenyiora’s effectiveness on the field, but also help the veteran to continue playing at a high level by making him a situational pass-rusher. So far, the results have been good, and this may be the best coaching move Mike Smith has made this year.